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BLCX;k DD-34 sector-1 salt lake 


British India 
1 772 - 1947 



A survey of the nature and effects 
of alien rule 



T^^Mfua. 9 G> 



First published 1960 

Rupa & Co 

15 Bankim Chatterjee Street, Calcutta 7(K) 073 
135 South Malaka, Allahabad 21 1 001 
P. G. Solanki Path, Lamington Road, Bombay 400 (M)7 
7/16 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi 1 10002 

By arrangement with 
Pan Macmillan Ltd., Ix)ndon 

This edition is for sale in India only 
All rights reserved 

Printed in India by 
Gopsons Papers Pvt Ltd 
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Nbida 201 301 



Frontispiece facing page iii 

Preface vii 


India before the imposition of British rule i 



Historical Framework 15 

1 The British in India 

Attitudes: Curiosity: Literature: Art and Architecture 32 

2 The Nature of British Rule 

Government: Principles and practice 47 

Law 70 

3 Indian India: Areas of Impact 

Economic life 82 

Appendix: Irrigation works 93 

Social policy 94 

Education no 

Appendix: Extracts from Macaulay’s Minute on Educa- 
tion, 1835 122 

Cultural and Religious Life 127 

Nationalism 139 


The Mutiny as the Meeting of Two Dying 

Systems i49 





Historical Framework i 55 

1 The British in India 

Attitudes: Curiosity: Literature: Art and Architecture 165 

2 The Nature of British Rule 

Government: Principles and practice 176 

Law 207 

3 Indian India: Areas of Impact 

Economic life 216 

Social policy 228 

Education 236 

Appendix: The education of women 253 

Cultural and Reli<iious Life 258 

Nationalism 272 


1 Indian Influences on Western Life and 

Culture 301 

2 An Example of Cultural Penetration: Indian 

Words in English 313 

Epilogue 318 


Materiais of History 321 

The British: Government aird Law: Economic Life: Education: 

The Meeting Place: Religion: Nationalism and Reform 

List of Illustrations 323 

Notes on Sources 375 

A Selection of Books for Further Reading 382 

Index 385 



T he THEME of this book is the meeting of two civilizations and 
its consequences in the fields of human and state activity. It is 
not an orthodox history of British India but a survey of aspects 
of British rule which arc seldom dealt with in any detail in the more 
usual histories, where political events are given the largest space. 
For the purposes of this work, the words ‘British India’ refer only 
to those parts of the country directly ruled, over the years, by the 
British. The princely states, which remained virtually untouched by 
the impact of British rule, arc not discussed. Neither is Burma, 
which, as it was gradually conquered, was administered as part of 
India until its separation in 1937. 1 have given fairly detailed treat- 
ment to the political ideas of the British, both the men involved in 
the administration in India and those in Britain - political philo- 
sophers and legislators - who had considerable influence on Indian 
affairs. Without some knowledge of these ideas and of the continuing 
debate about the best means of ruling India, it is impossible to under- 
stand the real nature of British rule. I have also given some space to 
the attitudes and extra-official activities of the British community 
in India. 

In writing a work about an empire which has been dead for less 
than a quarter of a century, it would be difficult to keep out refer- 
ences to what has happened since India became independent in 1947. 
In cases where India’s experience since independence throws light 
on sonic aspect of British India, I have made no attempt to exclude 
such references. Elsewhere, I have tried to treat the consequences 
of British rule in contemporary terms. 

Tliis work is by no means exhaustive. It could hardly be so in 
one volume.. I have therefore included a bibliography of works for 
further reading. 


British India 



India before the imposition of British rule 

1 BT US Strike at the trunk of the withering tree and the 
branches will fall by themselves/ With these words - uttered 
by a Hindu leader in 1723 - northern and central India 
entered a period of chaos and anarchy which was to last for almost 
a hundred years. The ‘withering tree’ was the Mughal empire 
founded in 1526 by Babur, a direct descendant of the Mongol 
conquerors Timur and Jinghiz Khan, and the Mughals themselves 
were the last of the great Muslim invaders who had established 
their presence in northern India since the beginning of the eleventh 
century. Babur’s successors spread Mughal rule over much of India, 
but the Mughals were Muslims, followers of Muhammad, and the 
majority of their subjects were Hindus The Mughals - like the 
British who were to follow them - were foreigners, and, though 
many Hindus had been converted over the years to their religion, 
both the rulers and the converted remained a minority in India, 
encapsulated by an alien faith and alien social institutions. 

A conquering minority, especially in a country the size of India, 
could not hope to rule without the assistance of the majority. The 
Mughals were not colonists; immigration from their central Asian 
homeland was on much too small a scale for that. Their role, and 
that of the Indians who identified themselves with them by changing 
their religion, was as rulers, administratois, and merchants. The 
Mughal civil administration rested upon the work of Hindu clerks. 
Its advanced industrial undertakings depended upon Hindu labour. 
Trade was carried on through Hindu middlemen acting on behalf 
of Muslim entrepreneurs. In effect, Mughal rule existed in terms of 
an undefined contract between the rulers and the ruled. In some 
parts of the empire, the contract was explicit. There were areas in 
which Hindu rulers continued to administer their states as feudatories 
of the emperor in return for a circumscribed independence, supply- 



ing troops for the imperial armies and acting as collectors of revenue 
for the central authority. Other parts of India, mainly in the south, 
remained totally outside Mushm rule for some centuries. In the 
areas which were subjected to direct Muslim rule, however, opposi- 
tion to the Mughals was to crystallize into rebellion. 

At the epicentres of Muslim power, large-scale conversions to 
Islam took place. This was hardly surprising. Some Hindus became 
Muslim out of fear for their lives or their possessions. Others did so 
to escape discriminatory taxes. Most of the converted came - as 
did those who turned to Christianity during the British period - 
from the underprivileged sectors of the Hindu social order; they 
hoped, by accepting the religion of the conquerors, to participate 
in some way in the advantages of religious identification. The 
extent of conversion in India, however, was small in comparison 
with other countries conquered by Muslim armies. The reason for 
this lies in the gulf between Islam and Hinduism. 

Essentially, the difference between the two faiths is one of quantity, 
the difference between one god and many. But it is also one of 
texture. Islam is austere, and its temples contain no image of god. 
Hinduism, on the other hand, is rich, highly-coloured. Its deities are 
known, identifiable, and the object of separate and particular 

In itself, the division between Islam and Hinduism might not have 
meant very much had it not been for the fact that the most distinc- 
tive feature of Hinduism was that religion permeated the social 
order. It was the dynamo of society, the ideology of everyday life. 
Its ordinances were socially binding. Art and literature were 
essentially religious. Institutions were accepted as divinely inspired. 
The whole structure of Hindu life - the joint family, the village 
community, the caste system - had the sanction of the gods. 
Because of all this, social activity was largely unaffected by political 
matters. The history of India might be a record of invasions, of 
the rise and fall of dynasties, of the instability of the state, but social 
conditions remained unaffected by changes of ruler because their 
divine origin placed them, generally speaking, outside political con- 
trol. Indeed, the stability of the Hindu social order was reinforced by 
the instability of the political system. The divide between politics 
and the mechanics of living was precise. A man’s loyalty was to the 



group, to family, village and caste rather than to the community as 
a whole; and to the state, not at all. His relationship with the state 
was always subordinate to that with the group. Even military service 
was the group concern of a professional caste. The majority of the 
people - the cultivators of the land - took no part in wars or pol- 
itical upheavals. Their real interest was not in who governed, but in 
how they governed; in, essentially, the incidence of taxation, and 
the absence of interference in religion and customs. 

The Muslims were cut off from this social system by the fact that 
they were the rulers and by their religion. They remained a people 
apart. Although their own social institutions were influenced by 
Hinduism - for minorities cannot resist absorbing some of the 
characteristics of the majority- this brought them no closer, socially, 
to the Hindus. Muslim rehgious ideas, in turn, had their effect on 
Hinduism, and attempts were made to produce a synthesis between 
the two faiths; the religion of the Sikhs is a continuing example. 
Over the centuries, even, a certain community of thought and culture 
grew up between Muslims and Hindus; the Muslims looked out- 
wards to the great area of Muslim civilization beyond India, and 
there was a considerable influx of ideas. The partnership of Hindus 
and Mushms in the administration produced a common language, 
Urdu, which is Hindi in grammar and Persian in alphabet. Urdu 
became the equivalent of Latin in medieval Europe, the lingua franca 
of the educated. But the cross-fertilization of cultures, however 
significant, was a minority concern. The majority of the people were 
unaffected by it, and fundamentally indifferent to it. Their pre- 
occupation was with the pressure of taxation, for on the extent of 
taxation depended the economic condition of the rural population. 

Revenue from the land was the principal source of state 
finance. Following Hindu tradition, the land itself was assumed to 
be the property of the king, who was entitled to the ‘king’s share’ 
either in kind or cash. The traditional proportion, according to 
Hindu law, was one-sixth, but under the Mughal emperor, Akbar 
(1556-1605) - the most enlightened of Mughal rulers - it had been 
fixed at one-third, a not imreasonable* proportion in a time of pros- 
perity. His successors raised the figure to one-half, reducing the 
peasantry to bare subsistence and giving them no opportunity to 
save against bad harvests. The result was that, when famine broke 



out, there were no stocks to fall back on and starvation became wide- 
spread. Throughout the seventeenth century, the pressure of 
taxation and the recurrence of famines produced wide civil dis- 
orders, shifts in population, and a general disruption of the rural 
economy. The Mughal administration had become a machine for 
squeezing the masses in the interests of the rulers - a state of affairs 
which, it must be added, was not confined to Mughal territories. 
But there was wide scope for exploitation. Merchants and shop- 
keepers, mainly Hindus, were often prosecuted on trumped-up 
charges and their property was confiscated. Craftsmen were virtually 
shaiigliaied and forced to work for some great official. Trade and 
industry were cruslied by taxation. Local governors operated local 
monopolies and, generally speaking, ignored the central authority 
until actually forced to accept it. 

None of this, however, would materially have affected the 
political situation in India if it had not been accompanied by a pro- 
gressive deterioration in relations between the Hindu princes and the 
Mughal emperors. In the time of Akbar, there had been considerable 
toleration towards Hinduism on all levels. Akbar had associated 
Hindus closely with his administration and many of them occupied 
high offices of state, both military and civil. The poll-tax on non- 
believers had b<"en abandoned, and Akbar had made the slaughter of 
cows - a particular crime in the eyes of Hindus - an offence punish- 
able by death. His successors, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, at first 
continued the policy of toleration, and although in 1632 Shah Jahan 
forbade the building of new Hindu temples and ordered the 
demolition of any under construction he did not actively discriminate 
against Hinduism. This was left to his successor, Aurangzeb (1659- 


Perhaps the ablest of the Mughal emperors, Aurangzeb was 
determined to restore the Islamic character of the state, which he 
believed had been lost in Akbar’s attempt to create a working part- 
nership between Muslims and Hindus. Aurangzeb began with a 
number of inoffensive reforms, including the appointment of a 
censor of morals to supervise and punish heretical tendencies amongst 
Muslims. A number of court ceremonies adopted from* Hindu 
practice - such as weighing the emperor in gold - were abandoned. 
A few Hindu temples were torn down. But in 1669 an order was 



issued that all temples and schools ‘of the infidels’ (i.e. the Hindus) 
should be demolished. A number of shrines of great sanctity were 
destroyed. In 1679, the poll-tax on Hindus was revived, and other 
discriminatory taxes were imposed. The administration which had 
to put the emperor’s orders into practice was staffed almost entirely 
by Hindus, and Aurangzeb ordered their dismissal. The chaos that 
followed, however, led to a compromise by which some Hindus 
remained in the service, though under continuous pressure to be 
converted to Islam. As if determined to antagonize every level of 
Hindu society, the emperor even prohibited the great religious 
fairs which were simultaneously acts of faith and popular entertain- 

Under this persecution, there grew up a climate favourable to 
rebellion. Many historians, both European and Indian, have seen 
the reaction of the Hindu princes in terms of a revival of Hinduism, 
a sort of national awakening. But the princes’ resistance to Aurangzeb 
was not undertaken in defence of Hinduism; it was designed to 
protect their own positions. They would have resisted -- as their 
predecessors had resisted the first Muslim invaders - even if there 
had been no ideological content to the conflict. They had been 
quite willing to participate in the profits of partnership with the 
Mughal emperors as long as it was possible to do so. When the 
situation changed, some of the heroes of this so-called Hindu revival 
did not scruple to ally themselves with Muslim princes in revolt 
against the Mughal emperor. Nor did they behave tov/ards the 
Hindu peasantry any differently from Muslim governors and nobles. 
The truth is that, thougli Aurangzeb moved against the princes 
because they were Hindus, the princes fought to protect their material 
rather than their reUgious interests. Undoubtedly, there were 
orthodox Hindus who tried to inspire the princes with a sense of 
religious fervour and poets and minstrels to compose and sing the 
chansons degeste of Hindu India. But if indeed there had been a I lindu 
revival- rather than a revival of militancy amongst the Hindu princes 
threatened with expropriation — then the Hindus should have been 
able to work together to establish a united Hindu dominion on the 
ruins of the Mughal empire. They were not able to do so because of 
the divide between the Hindu social system and the concept of the 



After the death of Aurangzeb, whose military expertise and admin- 
istrative ability had kept the empire together in face of rising rebel- 
lion, the Mughal dominion began to fall apart. The main reason for 
this lay in the nature of the Mughal administration, which was at 
once highly centralized and loosely organized, a personal empire 
too vast to be personally controlled. While the centre was dominated 
by an active and intelligent ruler, the provincial governors and 
officials remained loyal and obedient under threat of vigorous 
retaliation if they should be otherwise. But Aurangzeb was the last 
of the strong emperors and, as the central authority weakened under 
his successors, the parts of the empire began to assert their indepen- 
dence. Governors became independent princes. Landholders, petty 
rulers, and adventurers carved out kingdoms for themselves. 

Aurangzeb’s immediate successor, Bahadur Shah I, managed to 
preserve an uneasy peace with his principal Hindu enemies, the 
Rajputs and the Marathas, but after his death the process of decay 
accelerated. All that was now needed to bring down the central 
authority was a sharp push. This was given in 1739, not by the 
Hindu princes but by the Persian ruler. Nadir Shah. Nadir Shah was 
out more for loot than for conquest. Entering India, he met little 
resistance, none of the Mughal governors being prepared to aid their 
emperor. But some Persian soldiers were murdered and, in retalia- 
tion, Nadir Shah’s forces sacked Delhi, the imperial capital - an 
operation wliich lasted for nine hours. Afterwards, according to an 
eye-witness, ‘the streets were strewn with corpses like a garden with 
weeds. The city was reduced to ashes and looked like a burnt plain’. 
Though Nadir Shah (laden with the Kohinoor diamond and the 
Peacock Throne) retired to Persia, the sack of Delhi had struck the 
death blow at Mughal sovereignty. 

Between 1748 and 1762, north-west India was repeatedly invaded 
by the Afghans, while central and northern India were laid waste by 
the Marathas, making a conscious bid for succession to the Mughal 
empire. Though Hindus, the Marathas destroyed temples, slaugh- 
tered cows, and murdered Hindu priests and holy men. Wherever 
fhey went, they left destruction and death behind them. 

The general breakdown of the central authority soon had its effect 
on the tiny European trading settlements scattered along the coasts 
of India. These trading centres had, to some extent at least, been pro- 



tected by guarantees from the central government, but, with the 
collapse of the empire, officials intent upon creating and preserving 
their own independence now disregarded the immunities and privil- 
eges for Europeans which had been extracted - often with much 
difficulty- from the Mughal emperor. In self-defence, the Europeans 
began to fortify their settlements. But defence was to bring a measure 
of involvement, for there is an interior logic essential to the main- 
tenance of simple security; it is always necessary to occupy a little 
more territory than one actually needs in order to defend the area one 
actually holds. Expansion always produces conflict and participation 
in the intricacies of local politics. The French entered the vortices 
of Indian politics consciously, the British reluctantly, but once the 
step had been taken a continually increasing involvement proved 
irresistible as it became obvious tliat no indigenous power was 
capable of restoring the political equilibrium shattered by the 
collapse of Mughal authority. The Mughals had destroyed all 
authority but their own. The native system of chiefs exercising power 
at various layers between the rulers and the ruled had been elimin- 
ated from the structure of government. When the Mughals fell, 
there was no organised system to take their place. Forms of govern- 
ment did survive, but they became the tools of force and oppression. 
The scaffolding of law was distorted or destroyed. Society disin- 
tegrated into elements unaffected by politics - the joint family and 
the caste system - which continued to regulate inter-group relations 
within the surviving and essentially self-supporting village com- 

As British dominion spread slowly over India - the major areas 
were not absorbed until 1856 - it met anarchy and political chaos. 
But it also found a functioning society whose institutions had 
become petrified by the effects of a collapsed civil polity. Force was 
the sole arbiter, and it was superior force backed by purpose 
which gained India for the British. From the beginning, their 
primary task was to reconstruct some system of government and 
bring about civil peace. 

When, after the battle of Plassey in 1757, the British first began to 
exercise power in Bengal, they were forced to improvise an admin- 
istration. In Bengal, as elsewhere, any man strong enough to bully 
others did so until someone stronger took his place. Initially, the 



British were no better than their predecessors, allowing chaos and 
oppression to continue- and profiting from it. But this changed 
with the assumption of direct rule in 1772, and by 1788 a Muslim 
historian was able to say that the English were ‘unrivalled in their 
laws for the administration of justice, for the safety of their subjects, 
for the extermination of tyranny and for the protection of the 
weak’ [j]. They were also praised for not interfering in matters of 

No settled government, however reluctantly established, can 
afford to tolerate on its perimeter areas of civil disorder and political 
instability. Even in those parts of India where native rulers had been 
able to keep strong and tolcrcnt control, their deaths were inevitably 
followed by a return to chaos. In the south, where the British 
expanded their dominion from 1766 onwards, the general situation 
was one of uncontrolled oppression by robbers, mutinous troops, 
and local rulers. The population was thinly spread, for there were 
few large towns. The peasants lived in fortified villages, culti- 
vating only the land nearest to the village. The surrounding country- 
side was allowed to go to waste. In territories ceded to the British in 
1800 by the Nizam - a descendant of the Mughal viceroy of the 
Deccan, who had declared himself independent - a constant state of 
war had made the peasantry unwilling to tolerate any attempt at 
control. Feuds between neighbouring villages were common and 
often led to bloodshed and arson. Everyone carried arms, but 
travellers were frequently murdered by the robbers who infested 
the countryside . The inhabitants were harassed by some eighty chiefs 
with about thirty thousand men, as well as by the rapacity of the 
Nizam and his troops. There were no courts ofjustice and, generally 
speaking, village headmen and caste leaders settled disputes without 
the aid of any outside authority. 

All this had produced ‘such a universal state of savage indepen- 
dence and opposition to all regular government that it was every 
year necessary to besiege a number of villages before their rents 
could be collected’ [ 2 ]. 

Central and northern India, at the beginning of the nineteenth 
century, were still under the control of a loose confederacy of 
Maratha princes owing purely nominal allegiance to a minister 
known as the Peshwa. In their territories, the administration was 



designed only to raise revenue and their armies were no more than 
robber bands. The revenue was derived from direct taxation - 
protection money squeezed from neighbouring states - and from 
war. By such methods, the Marathas had not only reduced their own 
territories to exhaustion, but much of the surrounding country as 
well. The princes borrowed money from bankers and mortgaged 
their revenues for years to come. Offices great and small were 
auctioned to the highest bidders. The peasantry could raise enough 
only to pay the ‘king’s share’ and keep their families at subsistence 
level. The incidence of famine was high, and it was not uncommon 
for quite large towns to lose three-quarters of their population in 
times of scarcity. Villages fell to ruin. The land remained unculti- 
vated. The only activity was that of the tax-gatherer and robber, 
who continued their work even in famine conditions. 

The one surviving judicial institution left unscathed by the 
Maratha rulers was the panchayat, a representative body regulating 
village affairs and pronouncing judgement on matters of real and 
personal property. On other levels, justice was capricious and punish- 
ments varied according to caste status - higher castes were seldom 
severely punished - or bribery. Village communities managed 
somehow to survive in the absence of civil government, but the 
cities and towns suffered badly. They were easier to plunder, and 
- to begin with, at least - had more worth plundering. Cities which 
had once been important centres of commerce, industry and culture, 
fell into decay, and their citizens and craftsmen emigrated, when 
they could, to the security of the European settlements. The public 
buildings, palaces, tombs and mosques of the Mughals were allowed 
to crumble, and the l aj Mahal - the tomb of one of the Emperor 
Shah Jahan’s wives - was used as a private residence by a Maratha 

In the Punjab, where a powerful Sikh ruler, Raiijit Singh, had 
imposed discipline at the end of the eighteenth century, a system of 
controlled expropriation operated until he died in 1839, when wars 
of succession returned the country to the same uncontrolled anarchy 
as had preceded his reign. Village communities began to collapse 
under the pressure of civil war, and the country was finally annexed 
by the British in 1849. 

The last major area to be annexed to British dominion was the 



State of Oudh. Here, the Mughal emperor’s former chief minister 
had set himself up as an independent ruler on the collapse of the 
imperial authority. Oudh had been left isolated by the tide of British 
expansion. Indeed, its ruler was frequently squeezed to pay for British 
campaigns. As a reward, he had been given the title of ‘king’ in 1819. 
On occasion, over the years, the king was threatened with annex- 
ation and told to clean up his administration, but improvements were 
no more than superficial and temporary. In 1850, the situation in 
Oudh differed very little from that in the Maratha territories before 
1818. The landholders, wrote Sir William Sleeman after a journey 
through Oudh in the years 1849 and 1850, ‘keep the country in a 
perpetual state of disturbance and render life, property and industry 
everywhere insecure. Whenever they quarrel with each other or with 
the local authorities of the Government, from whatever cause, they 
take to indiscriminate plunder and murder over all lands not held 
by men of the same class; no road, town, village or hamlet is 
secure from their merciless attacks; robbery and murder become their 
diversion- their '•port; and they think no more of taking the lives of 
men, women and children who never offended them than those of 
deer and wild hog. They not only rob and murder but seize, confine, 
and torture all whom they seize and suppose to have money or 
credit till they ransom themselves with all they have or can beg or 
borrow’ [ 3 ]. 

Within the general chaos of life in India before the imposition of 
British rule, there were certain continuities. That of the Hindu social 
system has already been emphasized. Unless a village was totally 
destroyed, the communal institutions of village life survived, though 
often distorted by an inter-group violence which was a reflection of 
the larger violence of the world outside the village. The agrarian 
system was shaken, but not destroyed. Peasants often returned to 
their lands when peace came, and reasserted their rights. Economic 
life was, obviously, disrupted, but the movement of produce and the 
manufacture of goods continued at a level high enough to justify the 
interest and profit of European merchants. Centres of learning still 
flourished. Poets and painters continued their work, preserving 
traditional culture in the same way as the monasteries of Europe did 
in the tenth century, after the collapse of the Carolingian empire. 
When India emerged from the twilight of anarchy, both institutions 



and traditional cultures were to be confronted with the most sub- 
versive of ideas-* about justice, administration, philosophy, politics - 
and were to be transformed, in some cases superficially, in others 
fundamentally, by the impact of the West. 



Under Company Rule 


Historical Framework 

U NTIL 1858, British India was ruled by a chartered commercial 
corporation, the East India Company, operating under ever- 
increasing interference from the British Crown. But there had 
been no thought of dominion in the minds of the eighty hard-headed 
businessmen who, in 1599, met in the City of London to found the 
Company. Their concern was with trade - in spices, silks, gems, 
camphor and indigo - and the first voyages were fitted out not for 
India at all, but for Sumatra. In 1608, however, the Company’s 
agents in Bantam and the Moluccas reported that the people there 
were good customers for Indian calicoes and suggested that a trading 
post should be set up in India to buy them. The Mughal emperor, 
Jahangir, gave permission for such a post to be established, and 
finally - in face of strong opposition from the Portuguese, who had 
been the first Europeans to arrive in the East - the Company 
established warehouses at Surat, the chief port in western India, in 
1612. After Surat, further ‘factories’ (as the trading posts were 
called) were set up at Ahmedabad, Burhanpur, Ajmer, and 

By 1622 the Company had nothing more to fear from the 
Portuguese, who had suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the 
English and the Dutch. But the English themselves had been soundly 
defeated by the Dutch in the Spice Islands between 1618 and 1620, in 
spite of the fact that England and Holland were nominally allies in 
Europe. When, in 1623, the Dutch in Amboyna seized ten English- 
men and nine Japanese, tortured them into confessing to a conspiracy 
to assassinate the Dutch governor, and executed them, the Company 
turned its face away from the East Indies and towards India. 

By 1647, the Company operated twenty-three Indian establish- 
ments, but the civil war between king and parliament in England 
almost proved disastrous. The Company’s popper cargoes were 
seized by the king and guns meant for Company ships were 
requisitioned by parliament. For a while, the abandonment of 
Eastern trade was considered. Even when, in 1655, arbitration 



produced ^85,000 from the Dutch in reparation for the Company’s 
losses at Amboyna in 1623, the Company saw less than half the sum. 
Cromwell, in urgent need of money, borrowed ^46,000 of it ‘for 
twelve months’ and never repaid it. 

With the restoration of Charles II, better times came. The 
Company received a new charter, and the right to coin money and 
exercise jurisdiction over English subjects in the East. In 1668, in 
exchange for a substantial loan, the king transferred Bombay - part 
of the dowry his wife, Catherine of Braganza, had brought to him 
six years earlier - to the Company. 

Within the Mughal empire, there was anarchy and unrest. Hindu 
merchants, under the pressure of Aurangzeb’s anti-Hindu policies, 
began to look for some place of safety. They suggested that, if they 
were offered adequate protection, they would move to Bombay 
with their families, and presumably, their businesses. This was a 
tempting proposition, for the Dutch were trying to take over the 
Portuguese stations on the Malabar coast of India, the French 
(whose own Company had been formed in 1668) were beginning 
to establish factories on the same coast, and commercial competition 
showed signs of becoming intense. Furthermore, the power of 
the warlike Marathas was increasing and they had already, in 
1664, attacked Surat, In 1669, therefore, the chief merchant of Surat 
began to fortify Bombay as the new headquarters of the Company’s 
interests in India. It was the beginning of a new phase for the East 
India Company. The ‘quiet trade’ so dear to the Directors in London 
was to be defended by the Company’s servants in India, and in that 
defence lay the origins of tlic British Empire. 

In 1674 the Maratha, Sivaji, enthroned himself as an independent 
king, and an Englishman, Henry Oxinden, was officially present at 
the coronation. He returned with a peace treaty which he believed 
would prove of ‘no small bcncfii’ to the Company’s affairs. Sivaji 
had realized that British naval expertise might make the Company a 
valuable ally in his wars against the Mughals, particularly since a 
Mughal fleet - sheltering near Bombay during the monsoon - occu- 
pied its energies by raiding the Maratha coast. Unfortunately, the 
combined depredations of Sivaji and the Mughal admiral had an 
almost ruinous effect on the trade of Bombay. Even Sivaji’s death in 
1680 brought no relief. His son attacked tlie Portuguese and plotted 


to take Bombay. Pirates infested the coast and the interior was in 
continuing disorder. 

Bombay had grown fast, its military strength and religious 
tolerance making it a haven, not only for Hindus escaping the 
Mughal terror, but for Christians fleeing from the Inquisit on in 
Portuguese Goa. When it was taken over by the English, Bombay 
had had a population of ten thousand; by 1674 it was a city of sixty 
thousand inhabitants. But the Company’s employees were badly 
paid and subjected to salary cuts and petty economies at the slightest 
excuse. When Aurangzeb, for example, re-imposed a poll-tax on 
non-Muslims, the Company protested, whereupon the emperor 
increased customs dues from two per cent to three and a half per 
cent. The resultant miserliness on the Company’s part brought 
protests from the garrison - never happy under its merchant bosses - 
and further discrimination against the armed forces led to rebellion. 
The garrison commander, one Richard Keigwin, in 1683 assumed 
authority in Bombay in the name of the king. He tightened up the 
city’s defences and, when the Mughal admiral arrived in 1684 for his 
usual wintering in the harbour, he was ordered to leave- and went. 
Ultimately, in exchange for a complete pardon, Keigwin surrendered 
to a fleet sent from England. 

On the other side of India, in Bengal, the Company’s agent. Job 
Charnock, blithely declared war on the entire Mughal empire in 
1686 over a quarrel about customs dues. The Company’s ten ships 
and six hundred men - all that were available in the area - proved 
inadequate for the task, and the English were forced to abandon their 
conquests and their factories and flee to Madras. In the end, a treaty 
was signed, and in 1690 the Company’s ships were moored once 
again in the Hugli river, near a spot where Charnock founded what 
was to become the capital of British India. In 1696, the English were 
given leave to fortify Calcutta, and a fort - named in 1699 Fort 
William, in honour of the Dutch king of England - was erected. 
In the same year, the three villages of Chutanuti, Govindpur and 
Calcutta were rented from the Nawab of Bengal. The Company had 
become an Indian landowner. 

The Company’s possessions, as distinct from agencies or trading 
stations, were now four in number - Fort St. George, Madras; 
Bombay; Calcutta; and, acquired at almost the time as Calcutta, Fort 


St. David opposite the town of Cuddalore on the Coromandel coast. 
The Marathas, who had acquired the latter town in the course of 
their free-booting activities, sold the site and all the land within ‘ye 
randome shott of a piece of ordnance*- a method of property dealing 
which so appealed to the English that they sent to Madras for 
the gun with the longest range and the most expert guimcr. This 
demarcation by artillery was carried out in September 1690, and the 
villages within the radius are known to this day as ‘cannonball 
villages’. Of the Company’s four possessions, Madras was by far the 
most efficient and vigorous; Elihu Yale, whose name is perpetuated 
in Yale University, was governor from 1687 to 1692 and applied 
anti-piracy laws with great severity against Indians and English alike. 

Matters were not running smoothly for the Company in England. 
Sir Josiah Cliild - who saw it as the Company’s duty to lay the 
foundations of British dominion in India - had purchased for 
;^8o,ooo from Charles II a prohibition against British subjects 
competing with the Company in India. But in 1694, the English 
parliament passed a resolution against the Company’s monopoly 
and expressed the opinion that all English subjects had an equal right 
to trade in the East Indies. In 1697, Spitalfields silk-weavers demon- 
strated against cheap imports of Indian textiles. In 1698, Child’s 
commercial rivals - offering the government a loan of ^{^2, 000,000 
at eight per cent - were granted a charter for a rival company, and 
the New English Company was founded. It fared badly, however, 
having first lent almost all its capital to the Crown, and then em- 
ployed men who had been dismissed by the old Company. In 1702, 
the two companies agreed to an armistice, and six years later they 

In 1707, the last great Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, died. The 
anarchy that followed was to give both Britain and France the 
opportunity - and the incentive - for empire. Just as they began to 
feel their strength, the great central land power began to fall apart 
and an enveloping chaos threatened. 

The English were tolerably ready to keep afloat in the troubles to 
come. Their settlements had been fortified, and a degree of friend- 
ship existed between them and the men who seized power in the 
provinces of the empire. The English had come as traders; then they 
became armed traders; soon they needed soldiers to defend their 



settlements; and, as the Mughal empire disintegrated, ‘spheres of 
influence' became necessary if the Company was to survive. Slowly, 
the rhythm of empire-building had imposed itself on the simplicities 
of trade. 

The French East India Company, however, was not a trading 
corporation in the same manner as the English. It was primarily an 
instrument of French foreign policy, strictly subordinate to its home 
government, and lacking the gambling instinct of the profit-seeker. 

To it, in 1742, came a man of genius determined on creating an 
empire. Surrounding himself with great magnificence, he lived 
orientally and was recognized by Indian rulers as one of themselves. 
The quasi-independent princes aspiring to full independence were 
often equally matched in strength and resources, and Dupleix 
realized that, by throwing even the meagre weight at his disposal on 
one side or the other, he could prove the decisive factor. He also 
discovered that native troops trained and led by European officers 
could defeat vastly superior numbers of the irregular cavalry of the 
Indian princes. This discovery was to be invaluable for both the 
French and the English. 

Unfortunately for Dupleix, he was bedevilled by the plans of the 
French government, and by the great French sailor. La Bourdonnais, 
who had been sent to harass English ships in the Indian Ocean. In 
1746, La Bourdonnais captured Madras, only to see it returned in 
1749 imder the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle which ended the War of 
the Austrian Succession in Europe. The war might be over in Europe, 
but Dupleix continued to intrigue with the princes in India in an 
endeavour to encircle the British. His own government, however, 
failed to appreciate the extent of liis plans. To the home authorities 
at that moment in time, India was a minor theatre of operations in 
danger of prejudicing affairs in Europe. Dupleix was replaced in 


In 1751, one of Duplcix's intrigues had been rumed by the 
military talents of a young English civilian turned soldier, Robert 
Clive, who had captured Arcot and held it against a besieging force 
for a crucial fifty-three days. In 1755, when Clive returned to India 
after two years in England, he found the French and English at peace. 
But events in Bengal were soon to shatter the deceptive calm of the 
Indian scene. 



In Bengal, the English had become arrogant and lordly - presum- 
ably because of the Company’s successes in the south - and acted as 
if they were an independent and sovereign power. In 1756, Siraj-ud- 
daula bc'came Nawab of Bengal. He was a weak youth, with a 
violent temperament and an unsavoury reputation. Already preju- 
diced against the British, whom he suspected of intriguing in favour 
of one of his rivals to the throne, he was further incensed when he 
heard that they were extending the fortifications of Calcutta. This 
was true enough though the works were trifling in extent and had in 
fact been put in hand because of the rumour that war between Eng- 
land and France was again imminent. It was reported that the French 
were engaged on similar works. The Nawab was aware of what had 
happened in the south, and he ordered both the English and the 
French to cease fortifying their settlements immediately. The French 
were conciliatory, the English oflFensive. The Nawab’s answer was 
to march on Calcutta. 

Siraj-ud-daula took the fort after it had been deserted by the 
governor and many of the inhabitants. The English had been so con- 
fident that they had neglected their defences and had not even 
troubled to organize a regular militia. When the Nawab entered the 
town, he found Josiah Holwell, the magistrate of Calcutta, in charge. 
Holwell and 54 other prisoners were confined for the night in the 
Black Hole, which was to become part of the martyrology of British 
India. The ‘black hole’ was the name officially given by the British to 
any garrison lock-up normally used for confining drunken soldiers 
(and the name was not, in fact, abandoned in the army until 1868). 
There is no reason to assume that the Nawab knew this place of con- 
finement to be only eighteen feet long and fourteen wide, or that 
intentional cruelty rather than ignorance and negligence was respon- 
sible for the death by suffocation of 43 of the prisoners. 

When news of the loss of Fort William reached Madras, an 

expedition was fitted out under the joint command of Clive and 
Admiral Watson, who recaptured Calcutta without any great 
difficulty in January 1757. There then followed a period of con- 
spiracy and intrigue out of which few of the principal characters 


;W#teab^a? 3 )^rrounded by a web of deceit and treachery and 
■iieart of if^i^e the English. They finally decided to replace 

a.K.H L F 



the Nawab with his general, Mir Jafar, and, after the French had been 
neutralized by the capture of their settlement at Chandernagorc, 
fought the untidy but fateful skirmish at Plassey on 23 June 1757. 
This ‘battle* consisted of two parts, an artillery display in the morning 
followed by severe monsoon rain which put most of the Nawab’s 
ammunition out of commission; then a foolhardy but successful 
attack by Major Kilpatrick in the afternoon. Clive’s forces consis- 
ted of eight hundred Europeans and two thousand native troops, 
the Nawab’s of some fifty thousand men. The English suffered 
twenty-three killed, the Nawab’s forces about five hundred. 

The political results were immense. The East India Company 
became landlords {zamindars) of the ‘Twenty-four Parganas’ - 
nearly nine hundred square miles of territory south of Calcutta 
yielding substantial rents. Clive himself received gifts of ^^23 4,000, 
and others lesser sums. Mir Jafar became a puppet Nawab, and 
Siraj-ud-daula was murdered in his prison at Mursliidabad. The 
Dutch made an attempt to back their claims to trade, but the 
expedition they sent from Batavia was defeated. The French tried 
again in the south to contest the onward march of the English. 
Under the generalship of Tally, a brave attempt was made to seize 
the initiative, but after his defeat at Wandiwash the French finally 
dropped from the race, though intrigue and conspiracy continued 
through agents and mercenaries at the courts of Indian princes. 

The position of the Englbh in Bengal was now i^uprcme, and 
conditions remained fairly stable until Clive departed for England 
in 1760. liis successor as acting governor was Josiah Hoi well, who 
had survived the Black Hole of Calcutta. Hoi well wanted to take 
over the direct administration of the coimtry, since the death of Mir 
Jafar’s son had raised problems of succession. Neither the Calcutta 
C'ouncil nor the permanent governor, Vansittart, would agree to 
this, and it was decided to give British support to the Nawab’s son- 
in-law, Mir Kasim. The Nawab, however, would not consent to 
having Mir Kasim as his deputy. The Nawab was thereupon 
deposed, and Mir Kasim assumed the throne. 

The new Nawab had no intention of being a puppet as his father- 
in-law had been, and began to interfere in the Company’s trade. 
There was every reason for this. He could see the essential revenue of 
the state disappearing in the monopoly of duty-free trade demanded 



by the English as a right. They based their claim on a firman from the 
Mughal emperor which, in fact, related only to trade at seaports and 
not to the transit of goods inland. Because of this assumption of 
duty-free trading, the English - both as a Company and as indi- 
viduals- could under-sell the native merchants, and soon built up 
dangerous monopolies which brought no revenue to the state but 
immense profits to their operators. When the Nawab found his 
protests unavailing, he declared all trade duty free. In response, 
the English sent troops against him, and Mir Kasim and his 
ally, the Nawab of Oudh, were defeated at the battle of Buxar 
in October 1764. 

Buxar was the real foundation battle of British dominion in India. 
It was a bloody and determined engagement. Opposed to the British 
were not only the Nawabs of Bengal and Oudh, but the Mughal 
emperor, Shah Alam, and his prime minister. As a result of the 
battle, the Company ceased to be a company of merchants and 
became a formidable pohtical force. 

Robert Clive returned to India once more, for a second period of 
administration in Bengal, in 1765-67. During this period, the first 
sovereign act of the Company took place. It took on the office of 
diwan, i.e. collector and administrator of the revenues of the province. 
This was an appointment granted by the Mughal emperor, now 
practically a pensioner of the Company, and it meant that the 
entire civil administration of the province was the responsibility 
of the English East India Company. 

While the Company was expanding its power in Bengal, the south 
was once more in a state of ferment. By the terms of the Treaty of 
Paris (1763), England and France had recognized the Nizam of 
Hyderabad as ruler of the Deccan (of which Hyderabad formed a 
part), and Muhammad Ali - the ‘Nabob of Arcot’, whose debts 
were to become something of a byword in the latter part of the 
eighteenth century - as ruler of the Carnatic. Muhammad Ali kept 
the Carnatic in a state of anarchy and corruption, demanding aii i 
receiving military aid from the Company’s forces in various attempts 
to further his own personal ambitions. 

Muhammad Ali plamied to succeed to the thrones of the Nizam of 
Hyderabad and the Sultan of Mysore. They, in turn, thought the 
world would be a better place without him. The Nizam was a 



reluctant ally of the British, but the Sultan’s son, Tipu, was engaged 
in ravaging the suburbs of Madras. To add to the confusion, the 
Marathas were recovering from a defeat by the Afghans and 
Mughals at Panipat, and were becoming active in south India. In 
these circumstances, no-one was quite sure who was fighting whom. 
The uncertainty reached a climax when a British force - whose 
commander thought he was supporting the Nizam - found itself 
actually fighting the Nizam and the Sultan together. The fact that 
the British won could hardly have been said to clarify matters. 

The Nizam, after some wavering, was guaranteed the continu- 
ance of his dynasty by the Treaty of Masulipatam in 1768, but the 
Sultan of Mysore (Haidar Ali) and his son, Tipu, were able to 
dictate their own terms to the British at Madras. 

The Company, entangled in a web qf conflicting commitments, 
oflfered Haidar its support against attack. When it came, however - 
from the Marathas in 1771 - the British were in no position to 
fulfil their promise, and made for themselves implacable enemies 
in Haidar and his son. 

To Madras in 1769, as second in authority, had come Warren 
Hastings. Three years later, he was appointed governor of Bengal 
with instructions to *stand forth as diwan - that is to say, take over 
the administration directly and pubhely instead of hiding behind the 
fiction that the Nawab of Bengal still ruled. His first act was to 
cut down the expenses of administration. The allowance paid to the 
Mughal emperor in return for the diwani was stopped. Shah Alam 
had fallen prisoner to the Marathas, and Hastings did not see why 
he should subsidize a powerful potential enemy. The revenues of 
the Nawab of Bengal were also cut, and the districts of Kora and 
Allahabad were sold to the Nawab of Oudh. 

By 1772, the financial state of the East India Company was such 
that, failing to extract a loan from the Bank of England, it approached 
the government with a request for a million pounds. Parliament 
appointed a committee of investigation, and its startling disclosures 
of the ‘presents’ received by the Company’s servants between 1757 
and 1766 led to the Regulating Act of 1773. This marked the begin- 
ning of the decline of the Compaiiy as a trading power. The Act, 
as well as reorganizing the constitution of the Company, called for 
the appointment of a royal governor-general and established the 




supremacy of parliament over the Company. A Supreme Court, 
consisting of a Chief Justice and three judges, was to be set up. 
In England, the Directors were to supply parUament with copies of 
all their correspondence and half-yearly accounts. A second Act 
authorized a loan to the company. 

Warren Hastings was appointed the first Governor-General in 
Bengal, with authority over Bombay and Madras - though how 
this was to be exercised remained obscure. Under his adminis- 
tration the outlines of British India were formed. He attempted for 
the first time to establish the concept of a central authority, to intro- 
duce a system based not upon the exigencies of the moment but upon 
considered policy and organization. Above all, he was the first to 
suggest that the Company’s territories in India were not just a place 
of investment for shareholders, but a responsibility, an obligation 
requiring sympathy, understanding and good government. Hastings’ 
relations with his council, where he was in a minority, were difficult. 
His administrative reforms were carried through like a battle at sea, 
in a continuous running fight, until the death of a member of the 
council put him in a majority of one. 

Nor was Hastings free from military prob ems. In western India 
the Company had seized Salsette - an island ong coveted by the 
English in Bombay - and found itself at war with the Marathas, in 
whose territories it lay. A weak force from Bombay marched against 
the Maratha capital of Poona, but was forced to come to terms - 
terms which were then repudiated by Hastings, who sent an army 
marching right across India through the Maratha territories, from 
the river Jumna to Bombay. The force occupied Ahmedabad and 
Gujarat, but was severely mauled in the course of a dash for Poona. 
In 1781, however, another British force defeated Sindia- who had 
long been aiming at leadership of the Marathas - and in the follow- 
ing year a treaty was agreed between the British, Sindia, and the 
Maratha chief, Nana Famavis, which brought nearly twenty years 
of peace before the next phase of the struggle. 

In southern India, a French fleet under the command of de Suffren 
had fought several engagements with the British, and France had 
found an ally in Haidar Ali, the Sultan of Mysore. In 1778, Madras 
drifted into war against Haidar, and in 1780 he descended upon 
it with ninety thousand men and a hundred guns, burning and 



pillaging as far as the very gates of Fort St. George. The council 
at Madras appealed to Hastings for help and Hastings responded 
with men, money, and the services of Sir Eyre Coote. Coote defeated 
Haidar Ali (one of the finest exponents of guerrilla warfare) at 
Porto Novo. When Haidar died in 1782, he was succeeded by his 
son, Tipu Sultan - later to be dignified by the revolutionary leaders 
of France with the title of ‘Citizen Tipu*- who signed a treaty with 
the British. But it was a treaty that did not last. 

In 1785, Hastings resigned his appointment and sailed for England, 
where he was ultimately to be impeached before the House of Lords 
for his medieval treatment of India’s medieval rulers. He was 
acquitted on every charge. 

So the Indian empire began. Unformed, casual, but hardly 
accidental, it was constructed with mixed motives and powered by 
personal and commercial profit. Life was Hved at speed. It was a race 
between man and circumstances. It was a period, not ‘respectable’, 
but infinitely rich and vigorous. It was ruthless and self-seeking, 
and - from the point of view of the Indian people - it was no better 
than what had gone before, and no worse than what came after. 
Times were soon to change. The old days of individual enterprise 
were going and a new India was in the making. 

The first hint of the new India came with Pitt’s India Bill of 1784. 
This set up a Board of Control consisting of allegedly impartial 
notabilities. The royal governor-general was to have the right to 
overrule his council as well as the governors of Madras and Bombay. 
The Directors of the Company were left with only one powerful 
tool, that of patronage. 

Hastings was succeeded as governor-general, after a twenty-month 
interregnum under Sir Jolin Maepherson- whose rule was charitably 
described by his successor as a ‘system of the dirtiest jobbery’ - by 
Lord Cornwallis, whose reputation had apparently not suffered by 
his surrender to George Washington at Yorktown. Quick to smell 
corruption, he was decisive in suppressing it at every level. Under 
his rule, the civil service was divided into executive and judicial 
branches, salaries were increased, and a revenue settlement (well- 
meaning but misguided) was imposed. In external matters, Com- 
waUis was forced - in defiance of the spirit of Pitt’s India Act- to 
go to war in an attempt to counteract the anarchy of the surrounding 



native states. He himself besieged the capital of Tipu Sultan in 1791. 
The situation in the Carnatic was a constant threat. The Maratha 
chief, Sindia, continued consolidating his position and employed 
French officers to train his troops on European lines. 

Cornwallis was succeeded in 1795 by Sir John Shore, a self- 
contained, timid man, whose period of office was the calm before 
the storm. In 1798, there arrived in India a new governor-general, 
Richard Wellesley. He brought with him his brother, Arthur, 
later to become Duke of Wellington. The empire-builders were on 
the march again. 

Wellesley was ambitious and determined on building an empire. 
The Napoleonic wars were in progress and French agents were active 
in the native courts of India. Wellesley first turned his attention to 
Tipu Sultan in Mysore. Tipu had entered into an alliance with the 
French, and had to be crushed. The governor-general invoked the 
terms of the British treaties with the Marathas and the Nizam of 
Hyderabad, and forced them to countenance an attack on ‘Citizen 
Tipu. His capital, Seringapatam, fell, and Tipu himself- a pro- 
gressive and enhghtcned ruler in eighteenth century terms - was 
killed. The British then annexed the coasts of Kanara and Malabar 
and, in 1799, Tanjore. When the ‘Nabob of Arcot’ died, Wellesley 
annexed the Carnatic too. The Marathas were offered, and refused, 
a share in the conquered territories. In 1794, Sindia had died, to be 
succeeded by his nephew, Daulat Rao, who by 1802 was at war 
with Jaswant Rao Holkar, ruler of the native state of Indore. The 
Marathas were first defeated by Holkar, and then by the British, who 
entered Delhi victorious, there to find the ageing, sightless Mughal 
emperor, Shah Alam. The British had no intention of re-establishing 
the Mughal empire, though Wellesley was happy to indulge in a 
charade of courtesies. He spoke of delivering the unfortunate and 
aged Shah Alam from bondage, and the emperor, in return, was 
graciously pleased to confer on General Lake the title of ‘Sword of 
the State*. In 1804, Holkar was in turn defeated, and India’s native 
rulers appeared to be in eclipse. 

Wellesley had achieved his purpose. Within six years, from 
holding a few pockets of territory, the Company had expanded into 
a major power holding Bengal and southern India, its troops in 
occupation at Poona and Hyderabad, its political Residents, or 



agents, at every native court, Only Rajputana, Sind and the Punjab 
remained outside the net. 

Wellesley's success proved his own undoing. The Directors of the 
East India Company found this dazzling activity too much for their 
ledgers, and the British government saw it as merely vexatious. 
Britain was engaged on a life-and-death struggle with France in 
Europe, and interruptions to tranquillity elsewhere were dis- 
tracting and undesirable. Wellesley was recalled, and Cornwallis 
was sent out to India for a second term, only to die two months after 
his arrival. 

Under the governor-generalship of Lord Minto (1807-13) a 
significant change came over the administration. He found the 
Company's possessions ruled by a militarized, authoritarian govern- 
ment, and left them with the beginnings of a civilized system. An 
unpretentious personality, he was able to look with wry amuse- 
ment at the pomp and splendour with which he was inescapably 
surrounded. During Minto’s term of office, the British began to 
view with apprehension the countries bordering the western 
frontiers of their territories - Persia, Afghanistan, and the Central 
Asian Khanates. But on the very doorstep of British territory was 
the only powerful independent state left in India, the kingdom of the 
Punjab. Its ruler, Ranjit Singh, had converted the religious militancy 
of the Sikhs into a formidable military power, commanded partly by 
European officers. Diplomacy won a treaty between Ranjit and the 
the British which was observed by both sides until Ranjit's death 
thirty years later. 

Minto had restricted his military activity to a number of ‘little 
wars', but under his successor. Lord Hastings - who arrived in India 
in 1813 - an expansionist policy was revived. There was war with 
Nepal - whose result was to enrich the Indian Army with Gurkha 
fighting men. There was a massive campaign against the marauding 
Pindaris, the robber bands of central India. Seeing the forces gathered 
to crush the Pindaris, the Marathas could not believe that such 
numbers were intended merely to suppress bandits. The resulting 
Maratha war lasted from 1816 to 1818, after which the whole of 
central India came under British control. 

In the meantime, in London, the East India Company's charter 
had come up for renewal in 1813. The Company was permitted to 



remain the ruler of India for another twenty years, when the 
charter would again have to be reviewed, but its trading monopoly 
with India was abolished. It retained, however, the trading 
monopoly with China. 

Under Lord Hastings’ administration, there flourished some of 
the most remarkable men Britain ever exported to India - among 
them Mountstuart Elphinstone in the Dcccan, Colonel Tod in the 
Rajputana, and Thomas Munro in Madras. They were men who 
knew India as a reality, not as an administrative or geographical 
fiction, and they felt a genuine responsibility for the people they 
governed. Hastings himself, though an expansionist in territorial 
terms, was a liberal and tolerant governor-general who set in train 
many of the reforms that have come to be associated with other and 
later names. 

Each new governor-general who came to India in the first half 
of the nineteenth century brought with him his own preconceptions, 
instructions from London, and an ability cither to galvanize or 
paralyse the Company’s servants. Some periods of office were 
notable for military activity - as in the case of Lord Hastings, and 
of Lord Amherst who followed him in 1823. During Amherst’s 
administration, the first war against Burma took place; Lord 
Combermere stormed the great Indian fortress of Bharatpur; and 
the 47th Bengal Native Infantry mutinied at Barrackpore over what 
they believed to be a threat to their caste. Other govemors-general 
were more concerned with administrative and social reform. Among 
these was Lord William Bcntinck, who held office from 1828 until 


Bcntinck’s administration coincided with, and to a certain extent 
reflected, the climate of evangelical thought then prevailing in 
England. It was a climate which had resulted in the abolition of 
slavery, among other things. The evangelicals were determined to 
press the benefits of Christianity and civilisation upon the heathen, 
and the fact that the heathen did not desire these benefits appeared 
only to be further proof of the outer darkness in which they existed. 
Under Bentinck, certain of the less humane practices of Hinduism 
were suppressed. But the attitude of mind which coloured these 
reforms also encouraged feelings of superiority among the younger 
servants of the Company, and made them view with horror the 



older type of administrator who had, it seemed to them, condoned 
terrible crimes in the attempt to be ‘pro-Indian’. This, in fact, was 
the period which saw the beginning of belief in the ‘white man’s 
burden’ and his divinely ordained civilizing mission. 

Politically, Bentinck’s administration completed the outline of 
the modem relationship between the Indian princes and the para- 
mount power, an outline which was to be maintained until 1947. 
In Mysore, a peasant revolt against maladministration was suppressed 
by the Company’s forces in 1831, and the state was taken over - 
although not actually annexed. The state of Coorg was annexed in 
response to ‘the unanimous will’ of the people. This period, too, saw 
the foundations of that fear of Russia which was to dominate the 
century. Russia was expanding its frontiers in Central Asia, and the 
Indian government sought to surround itself with buffer states. 
The ‘Great Game’ had begun, and agents of the government - 
sometimes publicly, sometimes secretly- explored Ladakh, Kashmir, 
Afghanistan, Balkh and Bokhara in pursuit of military and topo- 
graphical information. The Indus river was surveyed and found to 
be navigable. The Amin of Sind were instructed to permit com- 
merce upon it. The surveying party had been inadequately disguised 
as a mission conveying gifts to Ranjit Singh in the Punjab, and the 
Amirs had viewed it suspiciously, as the van of an English conquest. 
In a way, they were right, but it was to be some years before the 
conquest came about. 

Bentinck was followed in office for a short period by Sir Charles 
Metcalfe, one of the most distinguished members of the Company’s 
civil service. But it was a rule that no servant of the Company 
should hold the highest office in India, and Lord Auckland came out 
from England to take over in 1836. 

Auckland’s instructions from Palmerston, then prime minister, 
encouraged him to believe that a Russian attack on India was 
feasible - which it was not. They also authorized him to embark 
on the irresponsible and disastrous first Afghan war. Fear of Russia 
dominated Auckland’s private world. It was the theme of all the 
apparently insane policy decisions of that nightmare period. It 
replaced sound judgement with hasty instinct, infecting even the 
most rational of men with irrational fancies. The historical figures 
who played the Great Game ignored facts, so tormented were they 


BRITISH INDIA 1772-1947 

by rumours. Russia appeared to them to be on the very doorstep 
of British India - although Orenburg, the nearest Russian base, 
was over two thousand miles distant from the most advanced 
British post (at Ludhiana), and the whole of the Punjab and 
Afghanistan lay between. 

The war against Afghanistan was the result of Auckland’s ill- 
advised attempts at king-making, and it began with catastrophe. 
Out of a force of sixteen thousand British and Indian troops, most 
were killed or taken prisoner. It took bitter fighting for Britain to 
gain the final victory, and the Afghan war was followed - as if 
through some chain reaction - by an indefensible excursion 
against the Amirs of Sind, and then, at the end of 1845, by the first 
Sikh war. Ranjit Singh had died at Lahore in 1839, and his death 
had been followed by six years of assassinations, palace revolutions, 
and civil war in the Punjab. Finally, a Sikh army crossed the frontier 
into India. In less than three months, four major battles were fought 
by the British at tremendous cost. Although led by a general whose 
bravery was equalled only by his stupidity, Britain finally defeated 
the Sikhs, and a shoit-lived peace was signed. Henry Lawrence was 
appointed to Lahore to act as regent for the boy king. 

Meanwhile, Auckland had gone home to be replaced in 1842 by 
Lord Ellcnborough - who treated the Directors in London with such 
contempt that his appointment was revoked two years later. During 
his brief period in otficc, however, Britain occupied - though it 
did not annex - the state of (iwalior. Ellcnboroiigifs successor, 
Hardingc, held oHice until 1848, during which time the predomi- 
nantly Muslim state of Kashmir was annexed and sold to the Hindu 
(lulab Singh, a transaction which was to result a centuiy later in 
the modern ‘Kashmir problem’. 

When Dalhousic arrived in India in 1848 to replace Hardinge, he 
was met with another revolt in the Punjab. It began with the 
murder of the British agent at Multan. Again, bloody battles were 
fought; again, Sir Hugh Gough commanded his troops on the 
principles he had learned in the Peninsular war almost forty years 
before; again, at Chilian wala, he was almost defeated. He managed, 
however, to win an overwhelming victory at Ciujrat in 1849, and 
the Punjab was fmally annexed. 

Dalhousic’s period as governor-general was one ot the most 



decisive in the history of British India. It was a period of intense 
activity, and of consolidation, a period full of tremors foreshadowing 
the earthquake of the Indian Mutiny. Dalhousie rushed through 
reforms, and developed the ‘doctrine of lapse’ which denied rulers 
their immemorial right to adopt an heir in the absence of a natural 
one. By this method, the Company’s dominions were greatly 
increased. The first state to fall to the British under this doctrine 
was Satara, which was followed by Jhansi and Nagpur. In 1851, the 
last Peshwa of the Marathas died. For thirty-three years, he had been 
a pensioner of the Company, but Dalhousie refused to continue 
paying the pension to his son, the Nana Sahib. In 1852, a war was 
fought with Burma, and Lower Burma was annexed. In 1853, the 
first railway was opened and the electric telegraph was introduced. 
In 1856, the kingdom of Oudh was annexed. Nearly two-thirds of 
the sepoys in the Company’s Bengal army came from Oudh; 
annexation not only deprived the king of Oudh of his right to rule, 
it deprived" the sepoys of Oudh of many of the privileges they had 
enjoyed in their native state by reason of their Company employ- 

Dalhousie left India in 1856, and his successor, Lord Canning, 
inherited the products of his rule- unease among the princes, unrest 
among the sepoys. And the Indian Mutiny. 





The British in India 


F or the first fifty years of their rule in India, the British never felt 
wholly secure or even convinced of the permanence of their 
dominion. They were often critical of what they saw around 
them, but they were careful not to allow their feelings to influence 
their actions in case it aroused opposition which they might not 
be in a position to resist. At the same time, they had some respect 
for Indian culture or at least certain aspects of it. In the eighteenth 
century there was considerable social intercourse between the 
British and the Muslim aristocracy. Many British officials spoke and 
read Persian, the literary language. Some of them regarded them- 
selves as Indian rulers. On one level, those British in India who had no 
intellectual interests enjoyed the superficial luxuries of Indian aristo- 
cratic life. English women, because they were few in a masculine 
society, generally accepted the men’s opinions. They, too, enjoyed 
the luxuries. They were not in the least worried at attending balls 
and dimiers given by Indians, even though Indian women were not 

Towards the end of the century, however, the British were 
becoming conscious of a sense of racial superiority. The easy social 
relations they had had with Indians began to decline, though at 
first only in Calcutta. In other parts of India, where English society 
was numerically small and fashionable attitudes slow to arrive, the 
old relations with Indians continued. 

The change in the social atmosphere began with the arrival of 
Lord Cornwallis in 1786. His purpose was to reform the administra- 
tion, to clean up corruption and nepotism amongst the British. He 
succeeded. But in his desire to create a body of honest officials, he 
also excluded Indians from the higher posts of government. 



Cornwallis was convinced that every ‘native of Hindustan’ was 
corrupt. Unlike his predecessor, Warren Hastings, he had no 
intellectual interests to bridge the gap between himself and the Indian 
aristocracy. He replaced native judges with EngUsh judges. He 
abandoned, almost entirely, the traditional etiquette of diplomatic 
relations. Cornwallis succeeded in forcing the old Indian governing 
classes into isolation, leaving behind them only the Indian servant, 
the clerk, the merchant and the banker as representatives of India 
and Indian culture. 

Not unnaturally, the remainder of the British community took 
its lead from senior officials and, in particular, the governor-general. 
As they withdrew from contact, so too did lesser beings. By i8io, a 
visitor to Calcutta was able to report that ‘every Briton appears to 
pride himself on being outrageously a John Bull’ [i]. 

The government’s attitude was strengthened and expanded by 
Lord Wellesley who, arriving in India in 1798, brought with him a 
profound sense of racial arrogance. He had come to enlarge Britain’s 
dominions - against the wishes of his nominal masters, the Directors 
of the East India Company - and imperialism needs the backing of 
pride, the consciousness of superiority. Wellesley had nothing but 
contempt for Indians. 

There were other factors which contributed to the growing 
estrangement between Indians and the British. One of these was the 
growing number of women in the British settlements. They tended 
to bring with them the English prejudices of their time. Their 
attitude, generally speaking, was Christian, and narrowly so. They 
brought, too, a new sense of family life, and their arrival resulted 
in the expulsion of native mistresses who had at least injected 
something of India into the world of the British. The women had 
little to occupy their minds. Their life was a tedious social round. 
But they did have gossip. In a novel describing life in the 1840s, 
one character is made to remark: ‘ “In other parts of the world 
they talk about things, here they talk about people . . 

‘ “But what,’’ asked Peregrine, “do the people find to say about 
one another?’’ 

“Oh!’’ returned Miss Poggleton; “the veriest trifles in the 
world. Nothing is so insignificant as the staple of Calcutta conversa- 
tion. What Mr. This said to Miss That, and what Miss That did to 



Mr. This; and then all the interminable gossip about marriages and 
no-marriages, and will-be marriages and ought-to-be marriages, 
and gentlemen’s attention and ladies’ flirtings, dress, reunions, and 
the last burra-Khana - ” 

‘ “Pictures, taste, Shakespeare, and the musical glasses,’’ suggested 
Peregrine, with a smile. 

“Oh! dear no, nothing half as good as that,’’ returned Julia 
Poggleton; “the only Shakespeare known in Calcutta is a high 
civilian of that name’’ ’ [2]. 

The women were not interested in Indians, only in the inefficien- 
cies of their servants. They wanted to create for themselves and their 
menfolk an island in the vast sea of India - and to a large extent they 
were successful. 

Another factor in the estrangement was the influence of Christian 
missionaries who, though they mixed freely with Indians, had 
nothing but horror for their religion and frequently said so in the 
most violent terms. Their criticisms had great effiect on the British 
in India, convincing them that it would hardly be worth while to 
make an attempt at any close relationship with such a barbarous 

But the principal contribution to racial attitudes came &om the 
expansion of British society in India. Gradually, it became large 
enough to take on a life and a character of its own. It was no longer 
necessary for a small number of Englishmen to accept what India 
had to offer for their pleasure. The English society in the principal 
towns and stations was now able to supply all that was needed, the 
support and understanding of fellow-countrymen, and a simulated 
England in which English life might be enjoyed. As the number 
of British men and women increased, they were able to construct 
a fortress into which to retire after the imavoidable engagements 
with the natives - in business, in the law, or in government. It also 
gave them something to defend and to justify. 

Breaches were occasionally made in the barriers that were being 
erected between the British and Indians, but their effect was largely 
nulli£cd by that feeling of superiority which was at once self- 
defence and an inspiration for social reform. The ‘revelations’ 
concerning widow-burning, female infanticide, and the Thugs, 
which led to the major reforms of Lord William Bentinck, intensi- 



fied the British community’s distaste for Indians and their way of 
life. After 1820, the evangelical Christianity of many of the 
Company’s officers led them to see evil in almost everything. 

This attitude was not shared by everyone in India, though - even 
in the case of those who showed most respect for Indians and 
their institutions - there was a basic element of contempt. But the 
individuals who did manage to bridge the gulf between themselves 
and Indians were the exceptions. As British rule spread across India 
and Englishmen came out from Britain in increasing numbers to 
administer the new territories, such attempts were regarded as more 
and more eccentric, un-English, and generally to be condemned. 
There were undertones of condescension even among those officials 
who advocated reform, although they believed they were doing the 
right thii^ for India as well as for Britain. 

As they acquired a sense of purpose, the British in India began to 
acquire a sense of duty. They had always felt themselves to be 
exiles, a feeling reinforced by the rigours of the Indian climate. 
The author of the novel quoted above said: ‘The great world is 
full of changes, but the Calcutta world is far more changeable than 
any of die lesser ones it contains in its vast cycle. Society, in these 
parts, is a sort of ever-moving procession, and the same characters 
are seldom to be seen upon the stage many months together’ [j]. 
What he meant was that the threat of an early grave hung over 
everyone. The British in India were mostly young. ‘Among the 
Europeans in India’, wrote a lady in 1827, ‘there are scarcely any 
old persons as almost everybody is a temporary resident. Here, if 
you search the well tenanted burying grounds of the large cities, 
you will discover few besides the graves of the youthful, who have 
been cut offby some violent disease amid the buoyancy of health, pr 
the tombs of those of middle age arrested by death when just about 
to reap the fruit of long toil and privation by retiring to their native 
land. It is this which renders our Indian cemeteries so peculiarly 
melancholy : for though we bow to the decree which summons away 
the aged and the infirm, yet, humanly speaking, and in our blindness 
we are apt to pronounce the death of the young to be premature, 
and a fit subject of aggravated regret’ [4]. 

The atmosphere in which the land itself was an enemy certainly 
affected the judgement of many. It reinforced their dislike of India, 



and explained, too, the occasional outbursts of hysteria among the 
British population. 

By the 1850s, the British in India had virtually institutionalized 
their contempt for things Indian. Their sense of duty was fully 
supported by a militant Christianity which can be seen at its most 
aggressive in the careers of those men who have been called the 
Titans of the Punjab - John Lawrence, Herbert Edwardes, and John 
Nicholson. They admired the wild peoples - ‘The wild barbarians, 
indifferent to human life . . . yet free, simple as children, brave, 
faithful to their master, sincere toward their God’ [5] - but were 
nonetheless convinced that they stood in need of Christ’s teaching. 
These muscular Christians had a strong conviction of being engaged 
in God’s work and spent a great deal of time in anguished fear that 
they might have failed Him. 

By 1857 it was generally felt by British officials in India that 
Indians were a pretty evil lot and that it was Britain’s duty to 
civilize and Christianize them. The non-official community was 
indifferent - to Indians, and to Britain’s duty to ‘improve’ them. For 
its part, it was more concerned over the growth of an educated 
Indian middle class, which was already beginning to make demands. 
The non-official community was anxious to safeguard its own 
interests against attack from any direction, including the govern- 
ment in London. British residents in India had always resented the 
dictatorial authority of the governor-general. They believed that 
they should have a representative assembly, and asked for it. They 
did not suggest any such representation for Indians, whom they did 
not believe to be in need of it. 

The British sometimes successfully resisted reforms which they 
believed would lower their standing ‘in the eyes of the natives’. 
They were able to resist, successfully, the government’s attempt to 
equalize the application of the law. In 1837, the government passed 
what was known as the ‘Black Act’, designed to make British 
residents outside Calcutta subject to the jurisdiction of the Company's 
courts, in which Indian judges might preside. British residents sent 
a petition to parliament, and the Act was not enforced. 

There was constant conflict between the non-official, British 
community in India and the administration, a conflict in which the 
former were usually concerned with safeguarding their superior 

3 ^ 


position. But all the British in India, official and non-official alike, 
used the same standards of judgement - those of their own country 
and their own culture. They discovered that practically everything 
Indian fell short of those standards, in business, in government, and 
in religion. A minority continued to suggest that something valuable 
could be learned from Indian experience, something that might 
help decide how best to run the country. But it was always a 
minority. After about 1830, though changes developed in the 
standards of Judgement, both the changes and the standards were 
always British. 


Among that minority who felt that more should be found out 
about Indian institutions were a number of men who contributed 
to the discovery of India’s past. In tile late eighteenth century, Sir 
William Jones and others began to reveal something of the ricliness 
of Sanskrit literature. The Asiatic Society of Bengal, founded by 
Jones in 1785 with the support of Warren Hastings, became the 
centre for the Englishman’s curiosity about the country he lived in 
and ruled. The first volume of the society’s publication, Asiatick 
Researches, contained transcripts of ancient inscriptions, and notes 
on the sculpture of the caves at Elephanta near Bombay. In the late 
eighteenth century, the Journal carried descriptions of the antiquities 
of Delhi. Communications came from both civil and military 
officers in the Company’s service. Captain Hoare sent a book of 
drawings and inscriptions from Delhi and Allahabad in 1801, 
Lieutenant Price a Sanskrit stone inscription in 1813. This amateur 
tradition was to continue until the end of British rule. 

Early in the nineteenth century, the British showed great interest 
in a part of India not then under their control. In the independent 
Sikh kingdom of the Punjab, European adventurers in the employ 
of the ruler supplied valuable scientific information. One of the 
mercenaries. General Ventura, was inspired by stories of the treasures 
found in Egyptian pyramids to dig into some of the ruined towers 
which dotted the Punjab plains. Ventura found a large number of 
coins. Other men discovered more coins, some Greek, some Roman, 
some - at the time - unidentified. They also found sculpture that 
looked vaguely Greek. 


BRITISH INDIA 1772-1947 

Most of the discoveries ended up in Calcutta, and there an ofiicial 
of the Mint, James Prinsep, turned his attention to the new material. 
Prinsep might be called ^e founder of Indian archaeology. He had 
served under H. H. Wilson, the Sanskrit scholar, who had been head 
of the Mint before him. Not unreasonably, Prinsep was interested 
in coinage. From coins bearing bi-lii^ual inscriptions in Greek and 
Rharoshthi characters - in which certain names had already been 
identified - he was able to construct an alphabet. Later he turned to 
rock inscriptions of the period of the Mauryan emperor, Asoka, 
and by discovering on them the names of Greek kings (including 
Alexander) was able to deduce the date of the inscriptions. 

Prinsep died in 1840 and his work was carried on by Alexander 
Cunningham, who had arrived in India as an army engineer in 
1833. Cunningham remained in the army until i860 and most of 
his discoveries until that date were more or less side products of 
geographical missions. In 1842, he discovered the important site of 
Sankissa, and nine years later he was responsible for opening the 
great Buddhist Dhamek stupa at Sanchi. After his discovery of 
Sankissa, Cunningham wrote to a friend in London. He gave him 
the news and suggested that an archaeological survey would be 
‘an undertaking of vast importance to the Indian Government 
politically, and to the British public religiously. To the first body it 
would show that India had generally been divided into numerous 
petty chiefships, which had invariably been the case upon every 
successful invasion; while, whenever she had been under one ruler, 
she had always repelled foreign conquest with determined resolution. 
To the other body it would show that Brahmanism, instead of being 
an unchanged and unchangeable religion which had subsisted for 
ages, was of comparatively modem origin, and had been constantly 
receiving additions and alterations; facts which prove that the 
establishment of the Christian religion in India must ultimately 
succeed’ [6]. 

The idea of a survey was not new. In 1800, one Dr. Buchanan 
had been instructed to make an agricultural survey of territories 
in Mysore. This had been so successful that he was ordered to make 
a statistical survey of Bengal in 1 81 1. In both surveys he had marked 
archaeological remains. The beginnii^ of scientific map-making in 
India also had an important bearing on discoveries, for geographical 



surveys were interpreted in the very widest sense by the men who 
carried them out. The first strictly archaeological toun were made 
by a Scottish indigo planter, James Fergusson, between 1835 and 
1842. These resulted in the publication of the fint systematic account 
of cave temples. 

In the years before 1858, many military and civil officers contribu- 
ted a great deal to the rediscovery of India’s past. Such men as 
Colonel Tod, the Resident in Rajputana, not only compiled annals 
but collected antiquities and paintings. The work of oriental 
scholars in Europe had great influence on men in India who were 
interested in such subjects. When, for example, the Frenchman 
Abel R^musat translated Fa-hsien’s Travels in India (a.d. 405-441), 
it gave clues to the sites of forgotten cities which were followed up 
in India. 

During the period of Company rule, the investigation of Indian 
antiquities, Indian literature, and Indian culmre in general was the 
work of a few interested soldiers and officials. In one sense, it bore 
no relation to contemporary reality. Part of the interest was in 
throwii^ light on the legacy of Greece, that perennial interest of 
European intellectuals. Most of the men who made discoveries of 
great importance to Indian history did so without relating it to the 
Indian present. Yet their discoveries contributed to a new sense of 
India’s greamess - not in the eyes of Europeans, but in the eyes of 
Indians. To the Indian nationalists who followed, they supplied 
the revelation of a past of great vitality and worth, which could be 
set against the arrogant assumption of their British rulers that 
Western civilisation was superior to all. 


The British connexion with India produced writers of prose and 
poetry, some of lasting interest, most of justly forgotton mediocrity. 
Robert Orme, in his still highly readable History of the Military 
Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan (of which the first volume 
was published in 1763), wrote of the period of Clive. One of 
Thackeray’s characters (Clive Ncwcome) called it ‘the best book in 
the world’. A number of the Company’s servants produced historical 
works. Sir John Malcolm’s Political History of India appeared in 
1826, and he wrote other works of value. Mountstuart Elphinstone’s 



History of India was published in 1841. James Grant Duff wrote his 
useful but virtually unreadable History of the Mahrattas in 1826. 
Malcolm’s work was partly a justification of British rule. ‘The great 
empire which England has established in the East’, he wrote at the 
beginning of one of his books, ‘will be the theme of wonder to 
succeeding ages’ [7]. Elphinstone accepted the fact that India had 
once had some institutions of value, but was now in need of what 
the West - and specifically Britain - had to offer. Grant Duff was 
really writing a justification of the British campaign against the 

T. B. Macaulay, on liis return from India, wrote essays on Clive 
and I lastings ( \ (S40-41) which were highly critical and were designed, 
at least in part, to show how much the British administration had 
improved since the eighteenth century. The historians all had some 
axe to grind. J. D. Cunningham, whose History of the Sikhs was 
published in 1849 just after the annexation of the Punjab, was 
concerned with convincing the British that they must continue with 
their ‘civilizing’ mission in India. ‘The well-being of India’s indus- 
trious millions’, he said, ‘is now linked with the foremost nation of 
the West, and the representatives of Judean faith and Roman polity 
will long wage a war of principles with the speculative Brahman, the 
authoritative Mulla, and the hardy believing Sikh’ [^]. J. W. Kaye, 
who became the chronicler of British administrators in India, wrote 
his History of the IVar in Afiluwistan (1851) to remind the British that 
expansion for the sake of expansion could often lead to disaster. 

Soldiers, civilians, and their wives, wrote of their travels to and in 
India. From their works it is possible to gain a fairly clear picture of 
the life of the British. Many contain descriptions of ‘picturesque’ 
antiquities which provide a parallel in words of the aquatints of such 
artists as the Daniells (see page 44). James Forbes, who was in India 
between 1765 and 1784, disclosed in his Oriental Memoirs (1813) that 
he was driven by loneliness ‘to investigate the mamiers and customs 
of the inhabitants, to study natural history, and to delineate the 
principal places and picturesque scenery’ [pj. 

Later, it is possible to relate the reactions of the writers to their 
type of employment. Soldiers such as Herbert Edwardes {A Year 
on the Punjab Pronticr, 1851) wrote of new frontiers and of wild 
places, newly conquered. Missionaries and deeply-involved Chris- 



tian officers were determined to take the lid off pagan India (Charles 
Acland, A Popular Account of the Manners and Customs of India, 1843). 
Old-fashioned officials with paternalist leanings painted pictures of 
an India untouched by the West or sadly damaged by contact with 
it (William Sleeman, Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official, 

All these writers - the travellers and the historians - were critical, 
in most cases of India and the Indians. All of what they wrote was 
primarily designed to influence opinion in Britain. It was from 
these works that the legislators, and that narrow section of the 
British people which made up ‘public opinion', acquired their 
image of India. They preferred the evidence for India's depravity 
and backwardness to the apologetics of such men as Sleeman. One 
sector of ‘Anglo-Indian’ literary activity thus helped to create a 
climate in Britain favourable to the consolidation and advance of 
Western ideas of government and economics in India. 

There was also a great deal of fiction written, much of which 
represented a growing racial consciousness amongst the British and 
was without literary merit. There were, however, one or two 
exceptions. Mrs. Sherwood’s children's books - Little Henry and his 
Bearer and The Fairchild Family (i8i8) - reveal a great deal about 
English society in India in the early years of the nineteenth century. 
J. W. Kaye's anonymous novel, Peregrine Pultuney, has already been 
quoted (see pp. 33-4). W. B. Hockley wrote Pandarung Hari (1826), 
a picturesque novel set in the times of the Maratha wars, and The 
English in India (1828). Meadows Taylor's Confessions of a Thug (1837) 
is a sort of non-fiction novel based upon the author's experiences 
in the suppression of Thuggee. Taylor's novel contributed - though 
it was probably not designed to do so - to the general impression 
in Britain that the moral standard of the Indians was low. 

One of the most interesting of ‘Anglo-Indian' novels was written 
(under the pseudonym ‘Punjabce’) by the poet Matthew Arnold's 
brother, William Delaficld Arnold. This work, Oakfield or Fellowship 
in the East (1853), is more of a tract than a novel, primarily an 
exposure of the pettiness and - to Arnold - downright evil of most 
of the British in India. If there were no improvement in the moral 
standard of the British, India could hope for very little benefit 
from British rule. Arnold's idea of the Englishman's duty in India 



was that he should ‘help in the work, or try to set it going, of 
raising the European Socielyj the great influence of Asia, first from 
the depths of immorality, gradually to a state of comparative 
Christian earnestness. I am quite certain that nothing less than 
Christianity, in the Cromwell or some other shape, will have any 
effect on the awful vis inertiae of Asiaticism. The protection of life 
and property, of which we hear so much, is of course a clear good; 
hardly, though, a very disinterested boon of ours to this country, 
for if life and property were insecure, whose throats or purses would 
go first? But for any purpose beyond protection to life and property 
(I, for one, will not believe that Cod gave England the Indian Empire 
for police purposes only) an eating and drinking, money-getting 
community is inefficient’ [io\. 

As many of the British were amateur artists, so too they were 
amateur poets. Much of what they wrote was extremely bad, 
some reached a fairly high standard of mediocrity. There wms a 
certain amount of humorous verse, but this form was to reach its 
apogee after the Mutiny. ‘Anglo-Indian’ poetry reflected the 
changing attitude of the British both to India and things Indian 
and towards their own situation. Sir William Jones, as well as 
making translations, wrote original poems on various Hindu gods 
which show a real attempt at understanding. 

Wrapt in eternal solitary shade, 

Th’ impenetrable gloom of light intense. 

Impervious, inaccessible, immense. 

Ere spirits were infus’d or forms display’d, 

Breiim his own Mind survey’d. 

As mortal eyes (thus finite we compare 
With infinite) in smoothest mirrors gaze: 

Swift, at his look, a shape supremely fair 
Leap’d into being with a boundless blaze, 

That fifty suns might daze. 

Hymn to Brahma 

Later work on similar subjects is empty and facile, like the Hymn 
to India by William Waterfield. 



God of the varied bow, 

God of the thousand eyes, 

From all the winds that blow 
Thy praises rise; 

Forth through the world they go 
Hymning to all below 
Thee, whom the blest shall know 
Lord of the skies. 

The beginnings of a poetry of exile, of the British spending 
long years among savage and barbarous peoples, can be found in the 
melancholy poems of Bishop Heber and John Leyden, who died of 
fever in 1811 and whose Ode to an Indian Gold Coin first stated the 
theme which was to be taken up by others later in the century. 
Heber, who also died in India - in 1826, after only three years’ 
residence - expressed his longing for ‘Home’ in his poem. An 
Evening Walk in Bengal: 

So rich a shade, so green a sod 
Our English fairies never trod ! 

Yet who in India’s bow’r has stood. 

But thought on England’s ‘good green wood’? 

And blcss’d, beneath the palmy shade. 

Her hazel and her hawthorn glade. 

And breath’d a pray’r (how oft in vain !) 

To gaze upon her oaks again? 


The art of the British in India divides conveniently into the amateur 
and the professional. After Tilly Kettle arrived in Madras in 1769, he 
was followed by a number of painters who stayed for varying 
periods of time. Tilly Kettle (in India 1769-76), John Zoffany 
(1783-89) and Arthur Devis (1785-95) painted in oils, but their 
works were ravaged by the climate, and were expensive to ship 
back to England because of their size. Under the circumstances, 
miniature painters had an obvious advantage. John Smart (in India 



1785-95) and Ozias Humphry (1785-87) were the most important 
but they were followed by others almost as competent. In the early 
nineteenth century, George Chinnery (in India 1802-25) had the 
greatest reputation among the British. 

Some Indian rulers had their portraits painted by European 
artists. The court of the rulers of Oudh at Lucknow early attracted 
European painters. Tilly Kettle, Zoffany, and Ozias Humphry all 
visited Lucknow and stayed for some time. During the reign of 
Ghazi-ud-din (1814-27), Robert Home was to all intents and 
purposes Court Painter. 

All these artists painted in oils, but the most characteristic medium 
was water-colour. Most of the water-colour drawings were intended 
as studies for engravings, aquatints and, later, for lithographs. The 
vogue in Britain for the picturesque’ - for Nature in the raw - was 
so widespread and profitable that it was only natural that artists 
should visit India. William Hodges began his tours in India in 1780 
and produced his Select Views (London, 1786). Thomas Danicll and 
his nephew, William, stayed in India for eight years (1786-94) and 
produced their first work in Calcutta {Views of Calcutta, 1786-88), 
following it up with four volumes of Oriental Scenery (London, 
1795-1808). The Daniells were followed by others who, with them, 
helped to create for people in Britain an idealized and picturesque 
India which must have seemed oddly at variance with the descrip- 
tions of travellers and, later, of missionaries. 

One of the results of the cult of the picturesque in Britain had been 
the social acceptance of amateur sketching. The scenery of India, 
wild and romantic, intrigued the British. Their enthusiasm resulted 
in vast numbers of sketches and water-colours, some of them of 
quite high quality. Captain Williamson’s Oriental Field Sports was 
published in 1807, Captain Grindlay’s Scenery^ Costumes and Architec- 
ture in 1826. Travellers did sketches to illustrate their books. Perhaps 
the most important of these amateur artists was Sir Charles D’Oyly, 
who lived at Patna. D’Oyly, who had taken lessons from Chinnery, 
produced a number of books of illustrations on his own lithographic 

In the last twenty years of Company rule, the changes that were 
taking place in the general attitudes of the British in India affected 
their interest in art. They were no longer so concerned with recor- 



ding the life of the natives, for curiosity had been replaced by 
indifference. Art suffered from the British withdrawal from active 
involvement. This witlidrawal, of course, was not unanimous, and 
there were still people excited at the Indian scene. But they were 
rapidly decreasing in number. 

As the British settled into the role of rulers, they began to assemble 
some of the outward show of the governing classes back in Britain. 
Their houses, even if they were only of one storey, had a classical 
portico. Calcutta, ‘the city of palaces’, had a large number of elegant 
public buildings in the classical manner. On the whole, classical 
architecture transplanted well, being an exotic product itself But 
some adaptation had to be made to suit an intemperate climate. 
Lofty classical ‘piazzas’ - as they were called at the time - with their 
pillars rising to the full height of the house, let in the harsh sun of 
the early afternoon. They were therefore filled in with immense 
Venetian blinds. Churches designed by military engineers followed 
English patterns, and some were extremely elegant. In the early 
nineteenth century, indigo planters built themselves great mansions 
on their estates. 

The high peak of British Indian architecture coincided with the 
greatest interest in the picturesque. It was an architecture demonstra- 
tive not so much of national pride as of a desire for social status. 
The classical villas which grew up around the early settlements 
were not constructed to impress Indians but to convince the British 
themselves of their wealth and standing by using the architectural 
vocabulary of the rich and powerful in Britain. 

For roughly the first fifty years of British rule, the architecture of 
public buildings remained classical in inspiration. Outside Calcutta 
and the other large settlements, houses were usually simple, consisting 
of one storey surrounded by a veranda, and having a thatched roof 
The British even took this style of building up into the hills with 
them when it became fashionable to desert the plains in the hot 
weather. ‘The walls’, wrote Richard Burton in Goa and the Blue 
Mountains, published in 1857 but relating experiences of ten years 
earlier, ‘arc made of coarse bad bricks - the roof of thatch or 


BRITISH INDIA 177^-^947 

wretched tiles, which act admirably as filters, and occasionally 
cause the downfall of part, or the whole of the erection. The 
foundation usually selected is a kind of platform, a gigantic step, 
cut out of some hill-side, and levelled by manual labour. ... As 
regards architecture, the style bungalow - a modification of the 
cow-house - is preferred : few tenements have upper storeys, whilst 
almost all are surrounded by a long low verandah, perfectly useless 
in such a climate, and only calculated to render the interior of the 
domiciles as dim and gloomy as can be conceived.’ 



The Nature of British Rule 

government: principles and practice 

W HEN the British came to exercise power in Bengal, they 
were faced with a series of dilemmas. The first was - how 
to rule without revealing that the British had neither the 
capacity nor the manpower to operate an administration? Robert 
Clive’s notorious system of ‘dual government’ was the first solution 
to be tried. The native administration and its officials continued to 
function, while the British remained in the background. This was 
primarily a matter of expediency, but what was, in essence, a puppet 
system also appealed to the British because their main interest was 
in profit. They considered themselves not as innovators, but as 
inheritors, and they hoped to make their inheritance work for them. 
They thought of themselves, not as colonists, but as transients, 
making their fortune befotc climate and disease prevented them 
from enjoying it back home in Britain. They were content to adapt 
themselves to Indian circumstances and to manipulate the traditional 
forms of government. Nevertheless, the very presence of the British 
in the Indian countryside, as well as their use of traditional forms to 
their own advantage, influenced the system of administration. And 
as the numbers of British increased, so did the influence. It was to 
curtail their predatory activities that the Crown first decided to 
interfere in the administration of British India. 

When dual government was abandoned in 1772, the British were 
faced with their second dilemma. To what extent should the 
government be anglicized? Were existing institutions to be preserved, 
or swept aside? Warren Hastings felt that Indian institutions should 
be retained wherever possible. During his administration, Hindu 
and Muslim personal law received protection, Muslim criminal law 
was maintained, and Indians were employed in the administration. 



In effect, the principle of duality was continued, except that now it 
was operated directly by the British - who were themselves subject 
to English law, as exercised by the new Supreme Court set up by 
the Regulating Act of 1773 (see page 72). 

It was hardly to be expected that the introduction of direct 
rule would completely eradicate abuse and corruption, and when 
Hastings’ successor, Lord Cornwallis, arrived in India in 1786, he 
soon became convinced that there was not enough control exercised 
over the Company’s servants. 

The Supreme Court had been established with the intention of 
making individuals subject to English law; Cornwallis decided that 
English constitutional principles should form the basis of the system 
of government. In Cornwallis’s view, these principles were entirely 
opposed to the authoritarian character of native Indian government. 
His purpose was to establish the rule of law instead of the law of the 
ruler - to provide something fixed and immutable in place of 
something variable and arbitrary. The corruption and misery of 
Bengal were, Cornwallis believed, the result of allowing too much 
discretion to underpaid Company servants, who fell easily into the 
ways of native Indian governments. Cornwallis’s solution was to 
reduce the role of government. He opted for ‘the introduction of a 
new order of things, which should have for its foundation, the 
security of individual property, and the administration of justice, 
criminal and civil, by rules which were to disregard all conditions * 
of persons, and in their operation, be free of influence or control 
from the government itself’ [j]. 

The question of land revenue provided full scope for putting 
these views into action. Cornwallis ruled that the amount payable 
to the government should be permanently fixed, thus limiting 
interference by officials which, Cornwallis believed, took place 
when the revenue demand varied from year to year. One of the 
essential bases of Cornwallis’s ideas was that the executive should be 
separated from the judiciary, and that the executive should itself 
be subject to the rule of law. This was a revolutionary suggestion, 
not only for Indians, but for the British in India who - following 
Indian practice - had made no division between the authority which 
made the law and the authority which enforced it. Even the men who 
collected the revenue possessed judicial powers. Cornwallis proposed 



to put an end to this. In his preamble to Bengal Regulation II of 
1793, he wrote: ‘The collectors of revenue must not only be divested 
of the power of deciding upon their own acts, but rendered amenable 
for them to the courts of judicature; and collect the public dues, 
subject to a personal prosecution for every exaction exceeding the 
amount which they are authorized to demand on behalf of the 
public, and for every deviation from the regulations prescribed for 
the collection of it.’ Like the good Whig he was, Cornwallis believed 
that the prosperity of the state rested on landed property, and his 
purpose was to see that this principle was irrevocably established in 
British India. 

English political concepts were to be transplanted into the soil 
of India, and Indians were to be removed from the halls of govern- 
ment. With Cornwallis’s admiration for English principles and 
institutions went a belief in the general superiority of Englishmen 
and the role they must play in preserving British rule in India. 
‘I think it must be universally admitted’, he wrote, ‘that without a 
large and well-regulated body of Europeans, our hold on these 
valuable dominions must be very insecure’ [2]. Indians were 
dismissed from all but the most minor offices. In Bengal, landholders 
who had had the right to employ armed retainers - and who were 
responsible for policing their districts - were deprived of this right. 
A British official, known as the Collector, was appointed to each 
administrative area in Bengal with the task of collecting the revenue. 
He had no political or judicial powers. Such powers were to be 
exercised by the man known as district judge and magistrate, who 
controlled the police and whose function was to administer the law, 
even against the Collector, if necessary. 

Although the principle of separation of powers involved conscious 
anglicization of the forms of government, it was not intended 
to change Indian society. On the contrary, supporters of the 
principle - particularly Lord Wellesley (governor-general 1798- 
1805) - believed that, in it, lay the best protection for that society. 
Wellesley argued that the interests of the mass of the people were 
non-political, involving no principles of government. If the govern- 
ment refrained from interference in religion, customs and personal 
law, Indian society could maintain its domestic structure. But 
whatever Wellesley might believe, interference there was. The 



British concept of private property rights and their enforcement by 
legal process was a radical innovation, and its effects were to alter 
the structure of Indian society profoundly. 

If the ideas of Cornwallis and Wellesley may be said to have had 
their roots in the Whig view of society, classically stated by John 
Locke, the ideas of the opposition stemmed from romantic senti- 
ments about the ‘noble peasant’ as expounded by William Words- 
worth. This did not, however, mean that the men of the opposition 
such as Thomas Munro (1761-1827), John Malcolm (1769-1833), 
Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779-1859) and Charles Metcalfe (1785- 
1846) - from whose thoughts and actions emerged an alternative 
to anglicized forms of government - were sloppy sentimentalists. 
Far from it. They believed in pragmatic, personal, and dynamic 
administration, free from the dead hand of impersonal government. 
While they did not deny that English fconstitutional principles were 
intrinsically good, they doubted their relevance to the Indian 
situation unless modified in their application. 

The importance of these four particular men was that they were 
not abstract thinkers but active administrators who, because the 
frontiers of British India were still expanding, were able to exercise 
considerable authority independently of the govemment in Calcutta. 
The Bengal system - by now a settled administration in an area 
where British rule was undisputed - had become cold and passive. 
Inherently, it was a system of division, above all, of rejection, for 
its purpose was to avoid involvement in the lives of the people. 
To men actively engaged in empire-building beyond such settled 
territories, the system lacked both warmth and what might be called 
the bravura of involvement. They were by no means opposed to 
reform, but they could not accept the belief that miraculous changes 
could be wrought in human society merely by means of legislative 
action. To them, a division of society between ruler and ruled was 
the natural order, and they believed in the exercise of political 
power as of right. 

Munro, Malcolm, Elphinstone and Metcalfe differed on points 
of detail, particularly in their attitude to native states and to the old 
aristocracy. Munro believed it to be good policy to conciliate the 
princes and others. Metcalfe was against it. But none of them 
expected that British rule would ever rest upon the affection of the 



masses. Their common aim was, not to engage in some vast operation 
designed to transform the Indian sub-continent into a vague 
simulacrum of British society, but to conserve traditional institutions. 
They were against innovation and fully aware of what its effects 
had been in Cornwallis’s time. When a new move towards increased 
anglicization began in the 1820s, they feared the worst. ‘The ruling 
vice of our government’, wrote Munro in 1824, ‘is innovation. . . . 
It is time that we should learn that neither the face of the country, 
its property, nor its society, arc things that can be suddenly improved 
by any contrivance of ours, though they may be greatly injured by 
what we mean for their good’ [5]. 

In spite of their superficial disagreements, Munro, Malcolm, 
Elphinstone and Metcalfe were preservationists. Except for Metcalfe 
- whose outlook had been soured by direct experience of dealing 
with Maratha princes - they believed that the Indian states should 
be preserved, not only as places where Indian culture could survive 
in the most natural milieu, but also as a refuge for those Indians 
who could find no place in the hierarchies of British India. A direct 
relationship between the ruler and the ruled was, they argued, the 
foundation of stability. There should be ease of accessibility betv^een 
government and peasant - government-by-mouth rather than by 
pen, instant decision rather than a multiplicity of written forms and 
slow judicial processes. This, in practice, demanded not the separation 
of judicial and executive powers but their union. The four adminis- 
trators considered that the Collector should have magisterial 
authority, control of the police, and, above all, the power to impose 
summary punishment. Although convinced of the need for efficiency 
and economy in government, they felt it would be better achieved by 
delegating authority to trusted individuals surrounded by the 
realities of everyday life than by a centralized and therefore remote 
administration. In essence, Munro, Malcolm, Elphinstone and 
Metcalfe were in agreement with certain of the views of English 
Utilitarian philosophers, who also believed in the union of judicial 
and executive powers, in a simple code of law and respect for custom. 
But they could not accept either the desire for uniformity or the 
rigidity of principle involved in the Utilitarian outlook. 

Above all, the romantic school of Indian administrators in the 
first half of the nineteenth century were fearful of violent change. 


BRITISH INDIA 1772-1947 

‘The most important of the lessons wc can derive from past experi- 
ence’, wrote John Malcolm, ‘is to be slow and cautious in every 
procedure which has a tendency to collision with the habits and 
prejudices of our native subjects. We may be compelled by the 
character of our government to frame some institutions, different 
from those we found established, but we should adopt all we can of 
the latter into our system. . . . Our internal government . . . should 
be administered on a principle of humility not pride. We must 
divest our minds of all arrogant pretensions arising from the presumed 
superiority of our own knowledge, and seek the accomplishment of 
the great ends we have in view by the means which arc best suited 
to the peculiar nature of the objects.’ And he went on: ‘All that 
Government can do is, by maintaining the internal peace of the 
country, and by adapting its principles to the various feelings, 
habits, and character of its inhabitants, to give time for the slow and 
silent operation of the desired improvement, with a constant 
impression that every attempt to accelerate this end will be attended 
with the danger of its defeat’ [ 4 ]. 

Essentially, the systems of Cornwallis and of Munro (and those 
who thought like him) were to prove permanent in the different 
parts of the country in which they were established by their creators. 
The general structure of both systems remained untouched, although 
there were to be many modifications and sometimes violent change 
within the structures. Both systems were designed to limit govern- 
mental interference in society, but both were designed to be operated 
by British officials, and both imposed Western concepts of property 
rights backed by Western law. The control of the administration by 
British officials meant that those officials could become agents of 
revolution if the climate of opinion in British India, or in Britain, 
changed. And the effect of Western legal institutions on matters 
concerning land - the core of Indian society - could be used as an 
instrument to transform that society. 

Cornwallis’s attitude - which involved the removal of Indians from 
positions of authority and the rejection of traditional administra- 
tive forms - was grounded fundamentally in a sense of racial 
superiority and its corollary, contempt for others. As the British in 
India ceased to be merchants and became empire-builders, they 
acquired a strong sense of exclusivity, occupying that special 



isolation which is characteristic of all conquerors. This was rein- 
forced by a growing belief, not only that the British were racially 
superior to Indians and possessed of infinitely better political 
institutions, but that their religion was superior too. This assumption 
would not have meant very much if it had not been intimately 
associated with missionary zeal on the part of a number of people 
with influence in Indian affairs. The most important of these was 
Charles Grant, who had been one of Cornwallis’s advisers in India 
and who, after his return to England, became chairman of the Court 
of Directors of the East India Company. His view, which illuijiin- 
ates the new mission that he and his associates proposed for Christ- 
ianity, he summed up in these words: ‘In considering the affairs of 
the world as under the control of the Supreme Disposer, and those 
distant territories [i.e. India] providentially put into our hands . . . 
is it not necessary to conclude that they were given to us, not merely 
that we might draw an annual profit from them, but that we might 
diffuse among their inhabitants, long sunk in darkness, vice and 
misery, the light and benign influence of the truth, the blessings of 
well-regulated society, the improvements and comforts of active 
industry? ... In every progressive step of this work, we shall also serve 
the original design with which we visited India, that design still 
so important to this country - the extension of our commerce’ [ 5 ]. 

The evangelicals - as Grant and his friends, who included William 
Wilbcrforce and the father of the future Lord Macaulay, were 
called - dismissed not only the religions of India as ‘one grand 
abomination’ [ 6 ], but also by implication every aspect of Indian 
society from its arts to its institutions. Except in one particular area 
however, these views had very little effect upon the Company’s 
administration, because the evangelicals believed that society 
could not be reformed by legislation, but only by a change in 
individual morality. They intended a campaign to free the Indian 
mind from the tyranny of evil superstition, a sort of Indian counter- 
part to the European Reformation. Their instrument was to be 
education, for only through access to God’s revealed word could the 
Indians be raised out of their darkness and idolatry. 

The evangelicals believed that the future prosperity of the British 
connexion and the future happiness of the Indians themselves 
depended upon complete anglicization of Indian society. ‘Let us 



endeavour to strike our roots into the soil’, said Wilberforcc, ‘by 
the gradual introduction and establishment of our own principles 
and opinions; of our laws, institutions, and manners; above all, as 
the source of every other improvement, of our religion, and conse- 
quently of our morals’ [7]. 

This view represented a real challenge to the East India Company’s 
continuing attitude of non-interference. The British in India, though 
conscious of their power, were equally conscious that it depended on 
the acceptance of the large mass of the people who did not particularly 
care who governed them as long as their customs and religion were 
not interfered with. Any attempt to convert Indians to Christianity 
promised to subvert the very foundations of civil peace by offending 
the most deeply entrenched religious prejudices. The Company’s 
administration had endeavoured to maintain a sense of continuity 
with the past, to emphasize tliat-thou^i it was an alien administra- 
tion - it contemplated no revolutionary changes in the lives of the 
people. The truth of this was most apparent to Indians in that very 
area attacked by the evangelicals, namely the Company’s religious 

This policy was essentially concerned with not giving offence, 
and it was taken to such lengths that, until 183 1, Indian Christians were 
actively discriminated against by the government. They could not 
hold appointments in the Company’s judicial service, nor were they 
permitted to practise as lawyers in the Company’s courts. In 
contrast, the government not only tolerated Hindu and Muslim 
festivals but allowed troops and military bands to participate in them. 
In 1802, for example, as a thanksgiving for the conclusion of the 
Treaty of Amiens between Britain and France, an official government 
party went in procession with troops and military music to the 
principal shrine of the Hindu goddess. Kali, in Calcutta, and 
presented the goddess with a substantial sum of money. 

The British had also assumed certain of the responsibilities of 
previous governments in relation to religious endowments and 
buildings and the control of pilgrim traffic to the many Hindu 
shrines. The issue of a Regulation in 1817 was followed by govern- 
ment administration of a large number of temples and their funds. 
The pilgrim taxes levied by the Company were used for the repair 
and upkeep of temples. In fact, the government’s involvement 



left its servants wide open to the criticism of supporting idolatry 
and acting, in the picturesque language of one observer, as ‘dry- 
nurse to Vishnu*. As late as 1833, the Madras government was still 
responsible for the administration of some 7,500 temples and their 
funds. British officials played an intimate role in the material life of 
the temples - assessing and ordering repairs, and even, on occasion, 
press-ganging men to pull the temple cars. 

The Charter Act of 1833 was to change this, though many years 
passed before it took effect and it was not until 1863 that the govern- 
ment finally severed its connexion with the administration of 
religious endowments. Many Indians were to look upon this 
ultimate dissociation of the government from involvement in the 
administration of temples and their funds - an involvement which 
was a traditional function of India’s rulers - as an abdication of one of 
the principal functions of government, and a deliberate repudiation of 
a duty incumbent upon all rulers, whatever religion they professed. 
More important still, it was to appear as yet another act of with- 
drawal, separating the government from the people and dramatizing 
for Indian society the uniquely alien nature of British government 
in India. 

The evangelicals had their first triumph in 1813 when, by the 
Charter Act of that year, the Company was forced to appoint a 
bishop whose headquarters were to be in Calcutta and his see the 
whole of the British dominions; to open up the country to Christian 
missionaries; and to appropriate an annual sum for education. The 
Charter Act of 1813 also forced open the door of the Company’s 
commercial monopoly, although many evangelists were, like Charles 
Grant, staunch supporters of a Company monopoly. Most of them 
possessed a vested interest in its maintenance, and ironically enough, 
believed they could reform the government of India without imping- 
ing upon the mercantilist conception of political dominion, which 
saw its raison d'etre as the drawing-off of tribute. The rational exten- 
sion of their view, which can briefly be summed up as ‘assimilation 
and profit’, was, in fact, free trade, colonization, and capital invest- 
ment - not the drawing away of wealth, but the creation of prosper- 
ity. The Company, however, was already an anachronism as a trading 
corporation. Ever since its occupation of Bengal after 1757, trade 
had taken a low second place to revenue-control and the transform- 



ation of revenue-surplus into dividends for the Company’s stock- 
holders back in Britain. But the expansion of British dominion in 
India soon produced a burden of debt instead of a revenue surplus. 
By 1813, the Company had become basically a military and admin- 
istrative power. It paid its way by using the profits of the opium 
monopoly in India to finance trade in China tea - from whose sale 
in Europe the shareholders’ dividends were actually paid. Neverthe- 
less, the Company resisted the breaking of its monopoly in the India 
trade, primarily on the grounds that free trade would lead to attempts 
to ‘improve’ Indian conditions and this would, it believed, endanger 
internal stability. In any case, it was convinced that no sudden 
improvement was possible. 

The Company’s attitude, however, ran counter to the spirit of the 
times, and, by the time the charter came up for renewal in 1833, 
evangelical opinion coincided with that of the free traders. By then, 
the evangelicals had witnessed some years of attempted improve- 
ment and social reform in India. The free traders had also gained an 
insight into India’s profitability; the Company had lost its trading 
monopoly (except that with China) in 1813, and the extent of 
private trade - particularly in manufactured cotton textiles - had 
amply justified the hopes of the free traders. But their very success 
raised doubts about the future. Indians were poor and their pur- 
chasing power was strictly limited. If this were to be changed, it 
would necessitate the widest use of British expertise as well as 
considerable financial investment. Such a programme would call for 
the abolition of restrictions on European ownership of land and of 
discriminatory inland transit dues. 

All this could be achieved - and was achieved - by political 
lobbying in Britain. But the creed of the apostles of free trade 
embraced more than the expansion of commerce. I'hey firmly 
believed that the industrial revolution which was investing Britain 
with the commercial leadership of the world resulted from a superior 
civilization, and the passing on of its benefits was not only good busi- 
ness but a heaven-ordained duty. The only way this could be carried 
out was by spreading English institutions and English education One 
of the results was that a Law Commission was appointed to codify 
Indian law according toWestem principles. Another was that, in 1835, 
it was decided that English education in the English language should 



receive the principal support of the government of India. Essentially 
this denoted a mission civilisatrice rather than a philosophy of con- 
quest. As Macaulay said: ‘To trade with civilized men is infinitely 
more profitable than to govern savages’ [ 5 ]. 

Paradoxical though it may appear, evangelicals and liberals such 
as Macaulay still wished to restrict government interference in the 
everj^day life of the people of India. They believed that it was the 
government’s duty to create a climate of change - but not to bully 
people into changing. To offer die means of change - but a means 
suitably protected by a hedge of English institutions. To persuade by 
example - but not to coerce by legislative action. They believed, 
however, that the government should be unmistakably British, 
demonstrating that its superiority stemmed from its civilization. 
Indeed, the general movement towards anglicization was aimed as 
much at the government of India as at Indian society. While 
legislation in London could be used to change the government’s 
attitude, Indian society was expected to transform itself as know- 
ledge of Western civilization was diffused by English education. 

There were other thinkers who did not agree with the pro- 
positions of the evangelicals and liberals, who had little faith in the 
regenerative qualities of English education, and who saw very 
clearly that the real instrument by which a radical transformation of 
Indian society could be achieved was the system of land revenue, its 
determination and assessment. Some of these men - generally called 
Utilitarians - were in a position to influence India's administration. 
James Mill, for example, had been appointed to a senior post in the 
East India Company’s headquarters in London in 1819; in 1830, he 
became the Examiner, or chief executive officer. Jeremy Bentham 
was the intellectual animateur of Lord William Bentinck, the re- 
forming governor-general (1828-35). William Empson, a confirmed 
Benthamite, was professor of ‘General Polity and Laws’ at the 
Company’s college at Hailcybury, where its administrators received 
their initial training. Although none of the principal Utilitarian 
philosophers had any personal experience in India, they knew 
instinctively that it was quite as bad as, if not worse than, the 
descriptions of Charles Grant. James Mill, comparing India with 
Cliina (which he also knew only at second hand), found that ‘both 
nations are, to nearly an equal degree, tainted with the vices of insin- 



ccrity ; dissembling, treacherous, mendacious, to an excess which sur- 
passes even the usual measure of uncultivated society. Both are disposed 
to excessive exaggeration with regard to everything relating to them- 
selves. Both are cowardly and unfeeling. Both are in the highest 
degree conceited of themselves, and full of affected contempt for 
others. Both are, in the physical sense, disgustingly unclean in their 
persons and their houses’ [p]. 

Both the evangelicals and the Utilitarians shared a fundamental 
contempt for Indian institutions, a contempt which became in- 
stitutionalized as the nineteenth century progressed. But they shared 
little else. The difference between them lay in their concept of the 
operative law. The evangelicals believed in God’s law, immutable 
and evident. In their view, all that was needed was to make know- 
ledge of this law available to all; example could then be expected to do 
the rest. The Utilitarians expelled God •from the equation. To them, 
sin was not original but a product of poverty, and poverty was - 
wrote James Mill - ‘the effect of bad laws and bad government; and 
is never characteristic of any people who are governed well’ [lo]. 
Mill had no faith in schoolmasters as purveyors of revolution. That 
savoured of placing the cart before the horse. ‘It is necessary,’ he 
went on, ‘before education can operate to any great result, that the 
poverty of the people be re-dressed; that their laws and government 
should operate beneficently.’ 

This was a cold and mechanist view of social change, and one 
which did not appeal to the messianism of the new English middle 
class. For one thing, it did not support their essentially patriotic view 
of the value of British civilization. Mill and the economist Ricardo 
even threw doubt on the fundamental belief that free trade was the 
creator of happiness. What was even worse - at least from the point 
of view of the British mercantile community in India - was that Mill 
disapproved of the Cornwallis system wliich restricted the executive 
authority of government and relied on purely conservative appli- 
cation of the law to protect private property. 

In the case of the law itself, Bcntham opposed the jury system and 
glorified summary procedures. Mill believed that, in the Indian 
interior, both British and Indians should be subject to the same laws 
and the same courts. As well as offending the deep-seated prejudices 
of the mercantile community, the Utilitarians repelled the liberals 



who believed that Indians should play a part in the administration of 
their own country. Mill argued that the people of India wanted 
cheap and efficient government and did not really care who operated 
it as long as these criteria were satisfied. He rejected the idea even of a 
legislature representing the British in India. Mill’s remedy for India’s 
ills was quite simple. ‘The mode of increasing the riches of the body 
of the people is a discovery no less easy than sure. Take little from 
them in the way of taxes; prevent them from injuring one another; 
and make no absurd laws to restrain them in the harmless disposal 
of their property and labour. Light taxes and good laws; nothing 
more is wanting for national and individual prpsperity all over the 
globe [11]. 

It was an essential of Mill’s thesis that, as in Munro’s system, there 
should be no middlemen between the state and the actual cultivator 
of the land. But he also called for a code of law which would be 
universal in-its application and mode of procedure and - even more 
important - for a strong central authority and an end to the semi- 
independent status of the Madras and Bombay presidencies. 

At the heart of the Utilitarian theories about India, however, lay 
the question of land revenue. Every level of Indian society, outside 
the urban areas, depended in one way or another upon the land. 
Before the fundamental rights of a rural community could be 
protected by the law, these rights had to be determined and recorded 
- a procedure which could be satisfactorily achieved only by means 
of Munro’s ryotwari system, where the administration had a direct 
and unimpeded relationship with the cultivators of the soil. But of 
even more importance than the definition of rights was the method 
of taxation which, according to Mill, was one of the great forces 
which in conjunction with the form of government and the 

Mill maintained that the state was, in effect, the universal land- 
lord. This view was supported by Indian tradition, but was also a 
rebuttal of both the Cornwallis and the Munro systems, which sought 
by implication to remove the state from that position. The problem, 
as Mill saw it, was to determine the rent payable to the universal 
landlord. In its correct setting - i.e. the general chaos of Indian 
circumstances - Mill’s apparently simple solution to the country’s 
ills appears in its true light as a vast programme of reform. It entailed 



the establishment of a strong central government possessing exclusive 
legislative authority for the whole of British India; the embodiment 
of all law into a set of scientific codes; a total reorganization and 
expansion of the judicial system; a complete overhaul and reshaping 
of the administrative service; the survey and registration of all land- 
holdings; and a scientific assessment of land revenue based on detailed 
statistics of agricultural production. Yet - over a period of many 
years, and certainly not in its pure form - Mill’s programme was 
actually carried through. It was to be diluted partly for environ- 
mental reasons and partly because the coldness of Utilitarian ^ideas 
did not appeal to the liberal-modernizers who were to carry out 
administrative and judicial reforms in India. Environment was a 
factor because two distinct revenue systems already existed - the 
zamindari and the ryotwari (sec pages 75-80). The zamindari system 
was firmly established in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, but for func- 
tional reasons could not be extended to newly acquired territories in 
the Deccan and the north-west; the ryotwari system had created its 
own administrative organization. Utilitarian influences were, how- 
ever, to be found in both systems, and in the sixties and seventies of 
the nineteenth century they coalesced to produce a uniform admini- 
stration in which Mill’s basic ideas were largely realized. 

The real effect of Utilitarian ideas during the period of Company 
rule depended upon two factors - Mill’s position as a senior official of 
the Company in London, and the activities of certain men in India 
who had been converted to Utilitarian principles. By the time James 
Mill gave evidence before a parliamentary committee in 1831, he 
was able to reveal that, for many years, instructions from London 
concerning the amount of the revenue assessment had stipulated 
that it should be restricted to the limits of the net produce - i.e. the 
surplus after the payment of wage-labour and the natural profits of 
capital - which the Utilitarians called ‘rent’. Mill also revealed, 
however, that there had been and still were immense difficulties 
involved in ascertaining rent and that, although this was partly due 
to the absence of statistics, the main difficulty lay in the fact that tiie 
revenue-administrators themselves did not understand Mill’s 
‘doctrine of rent’. But there was at least one person in a position of 
authority in India who did - the Secretary to the Supreme Govern- 
ment in the Territorial Department at Calcutta, one Holt Mackenzie. 



Mackenzie had produced a memorandum in 1819 outlining a new 
system of land settlement for those areas in northern and central 
India which were later to be called the North-Western Provinces. 
Although the governor-general accepted the system in 1822, the 
Regulation embodying it (VII of 1822) was in practice largely 
ignored because of the difficulty of estimating the proceeds and 
expenses of cultivation. Local custom operated such a bewildering 
series of restrictive practices - including price-fixing - that the law of 
supply and demand did not exist. 

There was opposition to the new system. John Malcolm considered 
it too academic, ignoring reality because it was too concerned with 
rigid principles. An assessment based on net produce was, in fact, 
carried out in Bombay in 1828, but in spite of (or even, perhaps, 
because of) its detailed statistical framework, it was generally 
considered - though not by Mill and the Directors in London - as 
too high. The assessment was abandoned in 1835. In general, after 
1833, another less doctrinaire and far more empirical method of 
revenue assessment came into favour. 

The failure of Utilitarian methods of revenue assessment was 
almost entirely due to the inadequacy of the administration. The 
searching investigation and detailed statistics necessary if they were 
to operate properly demanded more men - and more qualified men 
- than the administration possessed. Theoretically, how'ever, the net 
produce criterion was never abandoned, though it was considerably 
modified in practice. 

In their effect on society, perhaps the most important aspect of 
Mill’s views and their embodiment in the revenue system of northern 
and western India was that they had an essentially anti-landlord bias. 
Indeed, in the North-Western Provinces, discrimination against the 
landlord - or, as the Utilitarians called him, the rent-receiver - and 
the upheaval this caused in the social order, helped to bring about 
civil involvement in the essentially military mutiny of 1857. 

The concept of private property rights and their alienation for 
debt lay at the heart of every Western system - whether it was that of 
Cornwallis, Munro, or the Utilitarians - and it was this that was to 
dissolve the traditional social order. The moment land acquired 
realizable value either in outright sale or as security for loans, any 
tradition of communal interdependence as exemplified by joint 



proprietorship or co-sharing village-owned land tended to be eroded. 
There was a movement towards individual ownership supported, 
through the proper registration of title, by precise and legally 
enforceable definition instead of unwritten and therefore legally 
unenforceable custom. 

This affected the whole of British India. But there was no uni- 
formity in the matter of assessment or in the definition of land 
tenures. Before 1858, too much depended on the individual prefer- 
ences of local administrators bound only by the Company’s general 
instruction to maintain a moderate assessment. In a real sense, India 
was a series of laboratories for experiments in political economy. 

The movement towards codification of the law was slow, princi- 
pally because after 1835 the British were engaged in a succession of 
wars both inside and outside India which left successive governors- 
gencral with little time - and, frequently, less inclination - for 
contemplating major reforms. Nevertheless, the conclusions of the 
Law Commission (see page 73 ff.) and the code drafted by Macaulay 
laid the foundations for realizing the second great element in Mill’s 
system - a code of law which would be universal in application and 

There remained Mill’s third reform, a strong central government. 
There was an essential conflict between the two systems of govern- 
ment operating in India, whose leading protagonists were Cornwallis 
and Munro. This lay in the question of separation of powers. The 
paternalist school, represented by Munro, Malcolm, Elphinstone and 
Metcalfe, believed implicitly that executive and judicial functions 
should be combined. So did Mill and Bcntham, although not for the 
same reasons. To the paternalists, the union of these powers - and a 
wide discretion for the officials actually operating them - was a 
preservationist link with traditional Indian practice. To the Utili- 
tarians, the union of these powers was a matter of simple and 
rational common sense. That both attitudes were compatible was 
demonstrated in Elphinstonc’s administration of Bombay (1819-27), 
when he followed the Munro system but underwrote it with a 
precise and careful delegation of authority. Elphinstone also at- 
tempted to codify Hindu law, but ultimately had to be content with 
producing a consistent system of English law. 

Widespread administrative reform, however, had to await the 



arrival in India in 1828 of Lord William Bentinck. His instructions 
were to try to put the Company’s administration into some sort of 
order in preparation for 1833, when the Company’s charter came up 
for renewal. There was a substantial annual budget deficit, and it had 
been obvious for some time that the civil administration was, to put 
it charitably, less than efficient. In certain parts of the country, in 
fact, administrative collapse seemed imminent. This was a result of 
the absence of knowledgeable supervision. In the North-Western 
Provinces, for example, the provincial boards of revenue were 
expected to exercise control over the district revenue administration 
by means of correspondence. They were unable to do so. 

Before Bentinck’s arrival, a suggestion had been put forward in 
India that new officials should be appointed, each of whom would be 
given full responsibility in a district of manageable size where he 
could keep a personal eye on the activities of his subordinates. These 
officials ~ District Commissioners, as they came to be called - were, in 
turn, to be accountable for everything that went on in their districts. 
They were to be, not executives, but inspectors. Both the Utili- 
tarians and the paternalists believed in personal government at the 
level of action, carried on by experienced and practical men linked to 
higher authority by a precise chain of command. The plan for 
District Commissioners, responsible individuals operating within an 
area in which inspection and control could effectively be exercised, 
conformed excellently with Utilitarian and paternalist ideas. 

In 1829, the plan was put into action in the Bengal Presidency. 
The boards of revenue were replaced by the new commissioners, 
who took over control of the police and also became judges of 
circuit and session. A chief board of revenue was formed at Calcutta 
to act as the highest controlling authority. 

In Bengal, the commissioners exercised judicial functions only in 
matters concerning land revenue, but, as the system spread elsewhere, 
the union of powers desired by both Utilitarians and paternalists was 
achieved. In time, the commissioner system spread throughout the 
whole of Britain’s colonial empire. What had begun with BentinckS 
Regulation I of 1829 as a method designed (except in the initial case 
of Bengal) to facilitate immediate control of newly acquired 
territories in India became the orthodox pattern of colonial govern- 




These changes in the executive arm of the government also made 
possible reforms in the administration of justice - a matter of some 
urgency, since the courts were clogged with arrears. But the move- 
ment towards reform once again aroused the controversy over the 
functions of the executive power and the rule of law as instruments of 
social change. It is important to recognize that, in the minds of the 
paternalists, orthodox Utilitarians, and liberals, the mechanics of 
government and the social purposes of governmental action were 
inseparable. The ideas of administration propounded in both Britain 
and India were concerned with wider matters than producing cheap 
and efficient administration as such, or even with erecting a system 
which could collect the maximum revenue in the most expeditious 
fashion. Some thinkers and administrators in India insisted that the 
function of government was to protect and preserve. Others believed 
that social change should be brought about by executive action. 
Others, again, were convinced that the rule of law itself, by its 
efficient operation, would naturally bring into being an individualist, 
competitive society such as had given Britain her dominating position 
in the world. The Bentinck reforms of 1831, which completed those 
of 1829, struck a kind of balance amoJigst all three attitudes, not so 
much by uniting the executive and judicial powers as by making 
them interdependent. In Bengal, each district was to have a collector- 
magistrate with control of the police and summary jurisdiction in 
rent cases, while a district judge was to try criminal cases committed 
for trial by the collector-magistrate and hear civil appeals from the 
courts of Indian subordinate judges, who were to be given extensive 
new powers of jurisdiction. The latter provision went some way 
towards satisfying such men as Macaulay that Indians were not to be 
excluded from official positions. The reforms also affected Madras 
and Bombay, and there was a considerable extension of the use of 
Indian subordinate judges in both these presidencies. 

Bentinck succeeded in achieving the increased administrative 
efficiency which had been his brief on appointment. But there 
remained one overwhelming problem. This was not so much the 
very obvious lack of uniformity between different parts of the 
British dominions as the inability of the governor-general to impose 
uniformity. The governor-general’s field of authority - and that of 
the presidency governments - had been fixed by the British parlia- 



merit and could only be changed by it. It was clear to most people 
that, lacking any single legislative authority, the government of 
India was in confusion. This situation, and the absence of a single 
system of law, resulted in the major provisions of the Charter Act 
of 1833, which created a real government of India, complete with 
legislative council. The governor-general was now to become the 
‘Governor-General of India’, and not, as previously, the ‘Governor- 
General of Fort William in Bengal*. The new title made quite plain 
that the governor-general was to exercise supreme authority, and 
it was expressly stipulated that the former presidency governments 
no longer had the right to make their own laws. They were merely 
authorized to submit to the govcrnor-gcneral-in-council ‘drafts or 
projects of any laws or regulations which they might think 

Reform in the government of India was brought about in the 
face of powerful but essentially helpless opposition. The paternalists 
were naturally opposed to the concentration of power at the centre 
and a uniform administration for the whole of British India. They 
favoured dplcj^ation of authority and wide discretionary powers for 
local officials. There was, they agreed, a need for administrative and 
legal reform. They believed, however, that codification, for example, 
should be pursued with intent to provide not a uniform law through- 
out India but a series of comprehensive bodies of law designed to 
protect local rights and customs from the alien and disruptive effect 
of English law. The paternalists were convinced that local experi- 
ments in administration were infinitely better than an all-India 
uniformity. But their views ran counter to the general feeling of 
the time. 

Other opposition centred on the composition of the legislative 
council. Most opinion in India favoured a body with some popular 
basis, one which might include not only the members of the 
governor-general’s executive council, two judges, and representatives 
of the presidencies, but also possibly a number of ‘unofficial native 
gentlemen*. This dimly democratic concept ran counter to all 
Utilitarian principles. Mill maintained that a small body of experts 
was preferable on grounds of efficiency, and also argued that it 
would be more amenable to the influences of public opinion. 
Essentially, however, his view was that the business of government 



should be left to specialists who were not encumbered by the 
passions of what Bentham called ‘the untaught and unlettered 
multitude’ [ 12 ]. Though Mill did not get exactly what he wanted, 
the Charter Act did accept the principle of small bodies of experts 
when it established the Law Commission, of four members (see 
page 73 ff.), and added a Law Member to the governor-general’s 
three-man executive council. The Law Member acted as a member 
of council only when legislative matters were in question, and was 
not to be an employee of the Company. When he was present, the 
body of four was known as the Legislative Council. The Law 
Member was, however, to be more than just an expert on drafting 
legislation. ‘His will naturally be the principal share’, wrote Mill, on 
behalf of the Directors, ‘not only in giving shape and connection 
to the several laws as they pass, but also in the mighty labour in 
collecting all that local information, and calling into view all those 
general considerations which belong to each occasion, and of thus 
enabling the council to embody the abstract and essential principles 
of good government in Regulations adapted to the peculiar habits, 
character, and institutions of the vast and infinitely diversified 
people under their sway’ [ 13 ]. 

The first man to occupy the position of Law Member was 
Thomas Babington Macaulay. Unlike the Utilitarians, he professed 
no general theories of government. His mind was essentially 
practical. He rejected the Utilitarian belief that society could be 
changed by the exercise of a universally applicable theory. He 
retained the old Whig suspicion of political power but, true to his 
times, accepted a large role for the state in the pursuit of limited 
aims. Macaulay believed that free enterprise and voluntary action were 
the springs of progress, and he was therefore strongly opposed to the 
authoritarian elements in the Utilitarian ideal. Nevertheless, although 
he consciously rejected Utilitarian principles, he had assimilated 
many of the practical attitudes of Utilitarian political science. To 
Macaulay, reform of the law was a rational and immediate objective, 
a matter of clficiency rather than of social engineering in the interests 
of fundamental improvement in Indian character and society. In 
effect, Macaulay’s arrival in India removed the threat to the Corn- 
wallis system of minimum interference, for his aim was to recondi- 
tion, not to destroy. 



Utilitarian theorists bclidticd that legislation should be simply 
expressed and that ‘public opinion* should be made aware of the 
reasons behind it. Bentham maintained that the best way of limiting 
abuse of power by the executive was to give the widest possible 
publicity to these reasons. In his Minute of ii May 1835, Macaulay 
supported this view which had been stated by a member of council, 
Alexander Ross. It was particularly important in India to explain 
the reasons for legislation, he said, because India was ‘perhaps the 
only country in the world where the press is free while the Govern- 
ment is despotic. In all other despotic States, writers are afraid to 
criticise public measures with severity. In all other States where free 
political discussion is allowed, there is some public assembly in which 
the authors of laws have an opportunity of vi idicating those laws. 
If the emperor of Russia puts forth an ukase, no Russian writes 
about it except to defend it. If an English or French minister brings 
forward a law, he has an opportunity of arguing for it in Parliament 
or in the Chambers, and his arguments are read by hundreds of 
thousands within a few hours after they have been uttered. We [the 
English in India] are perhaps the only rulers in the world who are 
mute on political questions, while all our subjects are unmuzzled. 
Our laws are the only laws which arc exposed naked and undefended 
to the attacks of a free press’ [14]. 

Though Macaulay’s point was a good one, it must be remembered 
that the press in India at this time was almost entirely European- 
owned and in the English language. Generally speaking, it reflected 
only the entrenched interests of the British community. The ‘public 
opinion’ which was in any way influenced by the press was that of 
an extremely small minority, and it was certainly not Itidian public 
opinion except in the case of the few Indians who could read 

It was, however, decided that, when legislation had passed into 
law, it should be translated into a number of Indian languages. This, 
of course, was ‘for information only’. There was no real question 
of inviting public criticism of proposed legislation before it was 
passed; draft legislation was to be published only in English. The 
views of the govemor-gencral-in-council were succinctly expressed 
in a letter, sent to the government of Bengal, outlining the method 
of publicizing legislation. *It would seem also advisable that the 



drafts of Acts should be made knov:n to the native community 
before they are passed into law by which means the Govemor- 
General-in-Council doubts not that many valuable suggestions 
might be offered to Government; but his Lordship in Council 
apprehends that this object could not be attained except by the 
sacrifice of much time, for it is obvious that the ordinary period of 
six weeks’ notice would be far from sufficient for this purpose. There 
may besides be other objections in the present state of society to 
invite the opinions of the entire native community of the legislative 
projects of Government’ [15]. Efficiency was the watchword, and 
though there are indications that Macaulay himself would have 
liked to consult a much wider spectrum of public opinion, it was 
certainly quite impractical to do so without some machinery for 
surveying that opinion. 

By 1838, the age of reform in India was over. After Bciitinck’s 
departure in 1835, little progress was made. Indeed, there was some 
regression. In Bengal, the Cornwallis system returned temporarily 
and the offices of collector and magistrate were separated - although 
they were to be reunited once and for all in 1859. Macaulay’s draft 
legal code was referred to the judges in the presidencies for their 
comments. The government - as one writer lamented in the 
Edinburgh Review in 1841 - was so preoccupied with external 
problems that it had ‘no adequate leisure for civil concerns of the 
utmost importance to the happiness of millions’. But there was more 
to it than just preoccupation on the part of the government of India. 
As the intellectual climate had earlier created a desire for reform in 
India, so a change in that climate brought about a change of attitude, 
when James Mill died in 1836, there died with him the eighteenth- 
century belief in man’s perfectibility and the power of political 
institutions to produce it. The Victorians were not quite so sure of 
themselves, nor quite so ambitious to change the world overnight. 
Certainly, they were optimistic. But they were cautious, too. 

The Utilitarian ideal, however, did not vanish into limbo in 
India. In Sind (annexed 1842) and the Punjab (finally absorbed in 
1849), the form of government used was very close to the pattern 
of Bentham and Mill. There was no division between executive 
and judiciary. A highly disciplined body of men ruled the^country. 
The Punjab administration was planned on military lines and, 



though in matters of executive strategy the man on the spot had 
discretion to act, his actions could be appealed against to higher 
authority. To ensure the validity of this right to appeal, each officer 
had to keep records, and any case sent for higher decision resulted 
in a demand for a personal report on the officer’s part. The District 
Officer was also subject to inspection. The Punjab system, in fact, 
had its origins in the methods used by Charles Metcalfe - a paternalist 
by conviction - when he administered the newly-acquired Delhi 
Territory in 1811-19 and 1825-27. But the Punjab system was not 
a resurrected paternalism, although the men who operated it have 
often been shown, particularly by nineteenth-century British 
historians and their followers, as almost Biblical figures, striding 
about like Old Testament prophets, insisting upon ‘simple’ values, 
and exhibiting a patriarchal sentiment for the ‘eternal’ Indian village. 
Their system was a highly efficient and rigidly controlled military 
government designed to impose, in the shortest possible time, the 
scaffolding of a civilized state. The Utilitarian ideal was most 
apparent in the system of regular reports and collection of statistics, 
and the animateur of the system was not so much Jolin Lawrence, 
who has received most of the praise, as lurd Dalhousie (governor- 
general 1848-56). 

Dalhousie was an authoritarian reformer in the Utilitarian mould, 
but he admitted no slavish adherence to abstract political theories. 
He was an active modernizer. He expanded the area of direct 
British rule. He considered the remaining native states to be 
anachronistic, and would liave been delighted to annex them all. 
Primarily, however, Dalhousie was determined to transform India 
into a modern state. He created new, all-India departments to deal 
with civil engineering works, telegraphs, railways and the post 
office. Uniformity of management and unity of authority were his 
guiding principles - and the phrases themselves have the authentic 
Utilitarian sound. But paradoxically, Dalhousie also encouraged the 
transformation of the Legislative Council into a sort of parliament, 
and advocated the appointment of Indian members to the council. 
y By the time the Charter Act came up for renewal in 1853, most 
opinion, both British and Indian, was opposed to Dalhousie’s plans. 
The Act tinkered with the administration, but it was obvious that 
the Company’s tenure was running out and that the day was not 



far distant when the Crown would take over the direct administra- 
tion of India. 

Despite the anticipated change in the relationship between 
Britain and India, which gave rise to some uncertainties, the general 
movement of reform associated with the name of Dalhousie 
continued to influence the existing system. The movement had the 
guarded approval of all who maintained an interest in India, whether 
they were theoreticians of government or businessmen anxious to 
enhance their profits. It represented, in effect, a new climate of 
optimism in England, where the industrial troubles of the Hungry 
Forties were over and a new wave of prosperity had hit the manufac- 
turing classes. Again, the ideals and hopes which had inspired the 
first reformers produced the heady vision of an anglicized India. 
Again, too, education appeared as the key to happiness and greater 
markets for British goods. Now, too, had come the great single 
tool of material progress - for India was about to enter the railway 
age. Charles Trevelyan, who had written in 1838 of the regenerating 
virtues of English schooling, hailed the railway as the means by 
which ‘the whole machinery of society will be stimulated' and ‘every 
other improvement whatever, both physical and moral’ intensified. 
The renewed belief in the mission civilisatrice of commerce and 
education was even to survive the shock of the Mutiny of 1857. 


Though pre-British India had its systems of law and legal institutions, 
both Hindu and Muslim, they had generally speaking ceased to 
function or been distorted by the operation of irresponsible force 
during the collapse of the Mughal empire. The vilhge panchayat, the 
most widely surviving judicial institution, had no precise code of 
law, and its actions were governed by customs and precedents 
which were often purely local in character and acceptance. In the 
strict sense, the panchayat was not a court of law but of arbitration. 
It functioned only with the consent of those involved in a dispute, 
and had no powers of enforcement. Nevertheless, it did have certain 
techniques of coercion. These were known as takaza ahd dhama. 
Both were a form of blackmail. If one of the parties involved in a 



dispute refused to have it heard by the panchayat, the other party 
might begin by employing takaza. This method was described by 
Mountstuart Elphinstone in 1819. ‘If a man have demand upon his 
inferior or equal he places him under restraint, prevents his leaving 
his house or eating, and even compels him to sit in the sun until he 
comes to some accommodation. If the debtor were a superior, the 
creditor had first recourse to supplications and appeals to die honour 
and sense of shame of the other party; he laid himself on his threshold, 
threw himself in his road, clamoured before his door, or he employed 
others to do this for him’ [1]. If takaza failed, dhama might be 
employed - a method which involved the gods. A person ^sitting 
dharna would fast on the other party’s doorstep, on the principle 
that, if the man fasting died, his death was the responsibility of the 
other and would bring down the wrath of the gods upon him. This 
was a method frequently used by Maratha troops in an endeavour 
to extract arrears of pay from their masters. 

At the same time as Hindu law, there existed the Islamic system 
which had been introduced into India by the Mughal conquerors. 
The civil system applied only to Muslims, and was never at any time 
imposed on Hindus. Like Hindu law, it was mainly concerned with 
personal relations - marriage, property, and so on. But, under the 
Mughals, Muslim criminal law applied to both Muslims and Hindus. 
By and large, in the eighteenth century, the Muslim penal code was 
far more enlightened than English law. The death penalty was 
rarely imposed, at a time when in England it was the punishment for 
over one hundred and fifty offences. The Mughals, however, made 
no attempt to develop an organized system of law designed to 
regulate disputes between members of the two principal religious 
communities in India, nor did there exist any machinery of justice - 
for there was no law of evidence, or of procedure. 

The first concern of the British when they came to establish their 
rule was to organize the administration of justice. The foundations 
were laid during the government of Warren Hastings in Bengal 
and, with modifications, the system then established survived until 
the end of British rule. Hastings’ first principle was that courts 
should be open to all, whatever their religion. Such courts {mafassat) 
were set up in the administrative areas known as ‘districts’, and two 
other courts [sadr)^ civil and criminal, were created to act as courts 

7 ^ 


of appeal. The courts were Company institutions, first established 
in Bengal and then, as British dominion spread, in the other 
provinces. Further Supreme Courts were set up first in Calcutta and 
later in Madras and Bombay, which were intended by the British 
parliament as instruments to control the excesses of the Company’s 
servants in India. The Calcutta Supreme Court was instituted by 
the Regulating Act of 1773, and its chief purpose, according to 
Edmund Burke, ‘was to form a strong and solid security for the 
natives against wrongs and oppressions of British subjects resident 
in Bengal’ [2]. This court, and those later established in Madras and 
Bombay, were independent of the governor-general and were 
known as King’s Courts. They administered English law, but their 
jurisdiction was limited to the three towns. Furthermore, to Indians 
they were required to apply customary law, either Hindu or Muslim. 
This dual system of law, English and customary, was maintained 
until 1861. - 

The British parliament had been deliberately vague about the 
range of the Supreme Courts jurisdiaion - a fact whose implications, 
according to Warren Hastings, posed a real threat to indigenous 
Hindu and Muslim law. ‘The people of this country [Bengal]’, he 
maintained, ‘do not require our aid to furnish them with a rule for 
their conduct or a standard for their property’ [j]. This was an 
emotional judgement, for it was not based upon any knowledge of 
the real nature of Hindu or Muslim law, and Hastings set about 
supplying the deficiency by encouraging the translation of Hindu 
and Muslim law books. 

The principle was established that, in all disputes concerning 
family relationships and religious institutions, communal laws 
should be applied. But the discovery of what those laws actually 
were was a slow process. Ancient texts and commentaries were 
translated, and the British assumed - particularly in the case of Hindu 
law - that they represented an organized system and applied them 
as such. It took some time for the British to discover that there was 
no uniformity of practice or interpretation, and that the Hindu 
treatises they had translated represented ideal systems expressed in 
the vaguest terminology, systems which had never - within living 
memory at least - dictated common usage. The texts sojaboriously 
translated by such oriental scholars as Sir William Jones were 



cnishingly described by James Mill as ‘a disorderly compilation of 
loose, vague, stupid or unintelligible quotations and maxims: 
selected arbitrarily from books of law, books of devotion, and books 
of poetry; attended with a commentary which only adds to the 
absurdity and darkness; a farrago by which nothing is defined, 
nothing established’ [ 4 ]. 

During the period of British expansion, the problems of that 
expansion - including warfare and the pacification of annexed 
territories - kept justice, as well as government, on the level of 
improvisation. The British did not want to interfere with the customs 
of the country, partly because they only slowly discovered what 
these actually were, and partly because they were unwilling to 
create antagonism to their rule by interfering with what, in essence, 
was the religion of the people. 

With modifications, Muslim criminal law was applied in those 
areas where it had previously been practised. The modifications took 
considerable time to become effective. As late as 1789, for example, 
robbers were still being punished in Bengal by having an arm or a 
foot lopped off. 

In areas which had been subject to Maratha rule, criminal law had 
ceased to exist and had been replaced by a variety of local customs. 
Rather than restore the Hindu penal system - if it had been possible 
to do so, which is doubtful - English law was applied. In civil 
matters, where custom was known, this was respected. Where none 
existed, judges were expected to settle the matter according to 

An enquiry made preparatory to the renewal of the Company’s 
charter in 1833 revealed a situation of confusion and disorder, and 
the Charter Act took the first steps toward codifying the law of 
British India. The aim, in the words of Lord Macaulay who presided 
over the Indian Law Commission set up in 1834, was to prepare a 
body of law which, while deferring to Indian conditions of religion 
and caste, would secure ‘uniformity where you can have it, diversity 
where you must have it, but in all cases certainty’ [5]. 

Until the new codes came into force after 1858, the British tried 
to retain and improve on the criminal law they had found when 
they began to exercise power in India. ‘The foundation of our 
criminal law’, wrote Sir George Campbell in 1852, ‘is still the 



Mahommedan [i.e. Muslim] code; but so altered and added to by 
our regulations, that it is hardly to be recognised; and there has, 
in fact, by practice and continual emendative enactments, grown up 
a system of our own, well understood by those whose profession it 
is, and towards which the original Mahommedan law and Mahom- 
medan lawyers are really little consulted. Still the hidden substruc- 
ture on which the whole building rests is this Mahommedan law; 
take which away, and we should have no definition of, or authority 
for punishing, many of the most common crimes* [ 6 ]. 

By the time the Law Commission began its work, a great deal of 
Muslim and Hindu criminal law had been overlaid by Regulations - 
i.e. laws passed by the governor-general - though, as the commission 
reported with specific reference to Muslim law, it retained ‘enough 
of its original peculiarities to perplex and encumber the administra- 
tion of justice’ [7]. 

The incompatibility of Muslim criminal law and Western practice 
had been discovered at an early stage. Muslim law, for example, 
permitted a ‘blood price’ to be the punishment for murder, a fine 
whose amount varied according to the murderer’s ability to pay. 
Under Muslim law, a crime against the person was not a crime 
against the state. No Muslim could be prosecuted on the evidence 
of a non-Muslim (which placed non-Muslims in an inferior position 
before the law). No Muslim could be punished for murder if he 
could prove that the murder took place while he was attempting to 
convert his victim to Islam. 

In 1790, Cornwallis had instructed all Muslim judges to take into 
account the motive, nature, and circumstances. He also established 
the principle that a crime of any sort was an offence against the 
state, and ordered judges to take notice of every crime, even if - as 
was permitted by Muslim law - the injured party did not wish to 
take action. In 1797, fines were made payable, not to persons, but 
to the state which then decided how they should be disposed. 
Modifications in Muslim legal practice continued to be made. 

In 1827, Bombay promulgated a statutory penal code applicable 
to all. In 1832 in Bengal, Muslim criminal law ceased to be applied 
to non-Muslims. Elsewhere, however, all persons except European 
British subjects were amenable to Muslim criminal law as modified 
by various local Regulations. The result was that there was no 



punishment standard throughout British India for any specific crime. 
A counterfeiter, for example, was well advised to pursue his trade 
in Bombay rather than in Madras or Bengal, where the punishment 
was almost twice as severe. In Bengal, a man selling stamps without 
a licence was subject only to a fine; in Madras, to a short term in jail. 
The purchaser went unpunished. In Bombay, however, both seller 
and purchaser could be sentenced to corporal punishment and five 
years’ imprisonment. It was such inconsistencies as these which 
offended the Law Commission. 

Macaulay, the real animateur of the commission, hoped to produce 
a code which was entirely new rather than a patchwork of others, 
European and Indian. It was to be a system of law based on universal 
principles. In his pre-occupation with universality of outlook 
instead of the narrow requirements of a particular society, Macaulay 
echoed the views of the eighteenth-century philosophes. 

The Law Conmiissioners agreed that they were looking for 
something new, neither English nor Indian in origin, and remarked 
that ‘the system of penal code which we propose is not a digest of 
any existing system and ... no existing system has furnished us 
even with a groundwork’ [8]. The draft code they produced, 
however, was influenced by the Code Napoleon and by Livingston’s 
Code of Louisiana - both of which claimed to represent a universal 
rather than a particularist approach. In spite of this, Macaulay’s 
code - and in essence it was of his devising - was described by 
Fitzjamcs Stephen as ‘an entirely new and original method of 
legislative expression’ [g]. Its principal, and revolutionary, virtue was 
that it was clear, precise and exact, and this spirit dominated the 
whole pattern of subsequent Indian codes. Nevertheless, it took 
almost thirty years for Macaulay’s draft to become the law of 
British India. 

The Law relating to Land 

In a country where the vast majority of the inhabitants are engaged 
in agriculture, laws relating to landholding and tenancy rights are of 
paramount importance, not only to the people involved but to the 
government, which depends on the land for its primary source of 
revenue. Generally speaking, during their period of empire-building 
in India the British improvised regulations as they went along, to 



satisfy the needs of everyday administration. One important measure 
of the period, however, proved to be of lasting character. This, 
Bengal Regulation I of 1793, was commonly known as the Perma- 
nent Settlement. 

The situation which resulted in the enactment of this Regulation 
can be summarized as follows. More than half the revenue of Bengal 
was derived from the land by way of a tax payable on all ground 
capable of cultivation. When the British assumed direct rule in 
Bengal, the tax had been collected for over fifty years by men known 
as zamindars who were responsible for remitting to the government 
the taxes raised on fixed areas, which varied in size. This system 
undoubtedly encouraged corruption, but the method of tax collec- 
tion was continued by the British until 1772 for the simple reason 
given by Robert Clive: ‘In the infancy of the Acquisition we were 
under the Necessity of confiding in the old officers of the Govern- 
ment, from whom we were to derive our knowledge, and whom we 
therefore endeavoured to attach to our Service by the Ties of 
Interest, until Experience should render their Assistance less necessary. 
Policy required we should pursue every Step likely to conciliate 
the Natives to our Government’ [io\. 

Under Hastings’ administration, however, it was decided that the 
zamindars could be regarded merely as officials of the former 
administration and therefore ignored. The right to collect revenue 
on behalf of the government was then auctioned to the highest 
bidder. As a result, revenue collection fell into the hands of a large 
number of speculators intent on squeezing a profit from the taxpayer. 
This, not unnaturally, led to a decline in the revenue. The British 
next attempted to collect directly through their own agents. This, 
too, proved unsatisfactory, as the Company’s agents knew no more 
about the land, the system of tenure, or the methods of cultivation 
than did the British who employed them. 

The real problem facing the British was to decide who actually 
exercised proprietorial rights. They could not tolerate the existence 
of a society based on custom and tradition, both of which lacked 
precision. Without an exact definition of private rights and private 
property incorporated in some written doemnent, how could the 
role of the state and the individual be adequately circumscribed? 
The English Whig view was that government existed fundamentally 



to administer justice, and its basic task was to ensure that the law 
operated in the interests of the maintenance of private property. It 
was ingrained in the Whig outlook that landed property was almost 
part of the law of nature. From landed property, there sprang the 
natural stratification of society into ranks and classes. To the Whigs, 
government did not order society; it merely guaranteed that society 
functioned in a proper and equitable manner. As Lord Cornwallis, 
who was responsible for the Permanent Settlement, put it in 
Regulation II of 1793 : ‘Government must divest itself of the power 
of infringing, in its executive capacity, the rights and privileges, 
which, as exercising the legislative authority, it has conferred on 
the landholders.’ 

The title of ‘landholders’ had finally been conferred on the 
zamindars, the men who had collected the land revenue before the 
days of British rule. Regulation I of 1793 declared that the zamindars 
were to have permanent, heritable and transferable property rights 
in their estates. But before this decision was arrived at there had been 
much controversy amongst the British in Bengal. One side main- 
tained that, by the law of India, all land belonged to the ruler, the 
zamindars being merely state officials. The other side insisted - in 
the words of Sir John Shore, its chief spokesman - that ‘the rents 
belong to the sovereign, the land to the zamindars\ Neither of these 
propositions was fully supported by either Hindu or Muslim law. 

Generally speaking, what could be derived from such Hindu law 
treatises as the Code of Manu (composed some time between 300 b.c. 
and A.D. 150) and later works suggested that the ruler was entitled 
to a share in the produce of the land and that this right was based 
upon his position as ‘protector of the soil’. Other sources did state 
that the king was the ‘lord of land and water’. As with all Hindu law, 
there was confusion and lack of precision, but in practice it seems to 
have been generally accepted that the ultimate ownership of the 
land lay with the ruler. Those who ‘possessed’ land did so until 
they were dispossessed - by force. There was nothing in Hindu law 
to indicate that the possessor-cultivator of land could sell or otherwise 
mortgage his holding for cash or any other form of payment. 
Ownership, in the modern sense, was totally unknown to Hindu 
law. But the cultivator’s right to occupy the land he cultivated was 
as traditional as the ruler’s right to a proportion of the produce. 



Muslim law did recognize property rights, but it was not precise 
in matters of land. The law relating to conquered territories differed 
according to the code of law applied. That which was effective in 
India - the hanaji - permitted the conqueror, instead of dividing up 
the land among his troops, to leave it in the possession of its present 
occupants on the understanding that they paid a tax {kliaraj) of twice 
the amount which would have been payable by a Muslim. According 
to the hanaji code, once this took place the state had renounced its 
claim to ownership and recognized the occupants as proprietors. 
If paymeiits, in kind or cash, were not made as decreed by the state, 
the land could be taken over by the state or sold to a third party. 
This was the law. But in practice, the Muslim rulers of India acted 
as if they were the true owners of the land. 

In the Permanent Settlement of Bengal, the British accepted the 
proposition that the state had been the ultimate proprietor of the 
land, and then apparently rejected the system in their own case by 
creating a landlord class vested with absolute proprietory rights. The 
recipients of this new status - one quite alien to Indian tradition - 
included tax-farmers, officials, and petty rulers with large estates. 

Cornwallis himself was not particularly interested in the contro- 
versy over the ultimate ownership of the land or in the pre-British 
status of the zamindar. ‘It is immaterial to government’, he said, 
‘what individual possesses the land, provided he cultivates it, protects 
the ryot [cultivator] and pays the public revenue’ [lij. Although 
Cornwallis had been ordered by the Court of Directors to establish 
permanent rules for the collection of revenue "accorditi^^ to the law 
and constitution of India" (as the Act of 1784 phrased it), he had no 
alternative but to recognize the zamindars - regardless of their legal 
position in the Hindu or Muslim codes - since he did not have the 
means of collecting revenue direct from the cultivators. 

In Bengal, the assessment of tax payable by the landholder was 
fixed. It bore no relation to actual economic conditions and was, 
in effect, a rent payable to the state which could foreclose if the rent 
were not paid, and sell up the land. One of the main objects of the 
settlement was to ensure that the revenue was paid, but the framers 
of the Regulation also hoped that a settled system would lead to 
agricultural expansion. This did not result. Widespread failure to 
meet the revenue demand led to the land being sold to rich merchants 



who had no real interest in the soil. It had been intended that tenant 
rights should be secured (as in the case of the newly created landlords) 
subject to the payment of rent, but the plan to give the cultivator 
the same security in relation to the zamindar as the zamindar had been 
given in relation to the state was a failure. The intention had been 
that the rights of the cultivators should be upheld by a special court, 
but this proved ineffective primarily because of the difficulty of 
establishing what the cultivator’s rights actually were. 

The Regulation enacting the Permanent Settlement was followed 
by a flood of litigation which almost submerged the judicial process 
altogether. Delays were so considerable that taking a dispute to 
court meant virtually abandoning any hope of reaching a decision. 
In this way, the interests of the cultivators were lost to view, while 
those of the zamindars were entrenched. 

As the British expanded their rule, the Bengal system was applied 
elsewhere in India, although only in those parts of the country where 
it was possible - however inadequately - to identify some individual 
or corporate body as the proprietor of the land. In certain parts, 
notably in Bombay and the southern region of Madras, such a 
class did not exist. Elsewhere, there was a zammdari class which 
could be recognized as landholders. In Madras, it was proposed that 
villages should be grouped together into estates which could then be 
sold by auction, so creating landholders where none had existed 
before. This was in fact done in certain districts, but after 1802 this 
form of permanent settlement was progressively abandoned, to be 
replaced by another system known as ryotwari [from ryot, or 

The ryotwari system was based on a permanent assessment of the 
rent payable on all arable land, determined after a survey of fields 
and other small units. The sum involved was to be paid to the 
government by annual agreement between the government and the 
cultivator. The purpose was in fact the same as Cornwallis’s - to 
establish individual property rights in the land. But the type of 
proprietor was very different. Fundamentally, the ryotwari system 
reflected a completely different concept of relations between the 
state and the individual. As Sir Thomas Munro, who was responsible 
for introducing the settlement in Madras, put it: ‘Supposing the 
amount of property to be the same, it would be better that it should 



be in the hands of forty or fifty thousand small proprietors, than 
four or five hundred great ones’ [12]. There was more to it, however, 
than a dislike of large landholders. Cornwallis, the Whig, had 
wanted to protect the individual from state interference. Munro, on 
the other hand, insisted that the individual both deserved and stood 
in need of the state’s protection. In effect, however, the two systems 
created a legally protected landholding class - on the one hand, 
landlords in the English sense; on the other, peasant proprietors. 

Personal Law 

In general terms, the British accepted the view that Hindu and 
Muslim personal law should not be subject to legislative interference. 
Such interference as did take place was mainly confined to those 
areas of custom which offended the conscience of the British, and 
these arc examined in the chapter on ‘Social Policy’ on page 96 ff. 

Nevertheless, personal law had to be administered, and it had to 
be administered by British courts. In the case of Muslim law, 
interpretation was comparatively simple as its provisions were much 
more precisely defined than those of Hindu law. The laws relating 
to marriage, divorce and inheritance - as well as other matters 
stemming from these - were categorically laid down in the Koran. 
As the conquests of Islam had spread, generations of scholars and 
jurists had attempted to adapt the laws of the Koran to suit different 
conditions. By the end of the eleventh century, Muslim law had 
petrified into the forms the British discovered when they arrived 
in India. It had become excessively rigid. And though legal rigidity 
is not socially desirable, it did mean that fairly clear-cut answers to 
specific problems were to be found. British judges had no need to 
fall back upon their own standards of equity when adjudicating on 
matters in which there was no written precedent. 

Hindu law relating to personal matters was, as in the case of I lindu 
law concerning land, imprecise and variable. The first written records 
were (and are) the smritis. These records included the Code of Manu 
and later commentaries, of which the most important were those of 
Vijnanesvara (eleventh century), Hcmadri (fourteenth century), and 
Jimutavahana (fifteenth century). Though this body of law books 
and commentaries often contained conflicting statements, each was 
assumed to be of equal authority - though not in every part of India. 



One commentary would be preferred in a certain part of the 
country, and there it would have become the settled law. 

Until 1864, British judges had no responsibility for making 
interpretations of Hindu or Muslim law. They were compelled to 
accept the pronouncement of the Hindu or Muslim law officer 
attached to the court. The judge was merely a mouthpiece for the 
law officer. On this basis, the law was applied as though it were 
contemporary law instead of a dubious collection of variables which 
were probably obsolete even as customary law and certainly, in 
large part, irrelevant to the conditions of the day. 

The administration of Muslim and Hindu personal law may have 
been less than adequate, but the dual system left important sections 
of the population without any law at all outside those areas subject 
to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Courts. Armenians, Parsecs, Jews, 
Portuguese, and even Eurasians had no discoverable system of law. 
Yet the administration of justice required that the ‘customs of the 
}>cople’ should be respected. When problems arose concerning the 
right of succession to land owned by Armenians, the matter had to 
be ‘dealt with by reference to the customs of the people as they were 
supposed to have existed in former times and by reference to their 
priests who advise upon their customs, but there is no established 
law’ [13], According to the Law Commission, somejudges apparently 
applied English law, some their own idea of equity, and some made 
vain attempts to take advice from Armenian clerics. 

The confusion over personal law and approaches to its administra- 
tion persisted until after the assumption of power by the Crown, 
and though a large number of suggestions for settling the problems 
were made by the Commission, no results appeared on the 
Statute Book until after 1858. 



Indian India: Areas of Impact 



T he confusion over proprietorial rights in the land has already 
been discussed in ‘The Law relating to Land’ (page 75 ff). The 
general purpose of the government’s land legislation was to 
define proprietorial rights as a necessary step towards the efficient 
collection of revenue. High assessments undoubtedly affected rural 
solvency, and the ideological implications of the two land systems - 
zamindari and ryotwari - resulted in much social disorder and many 
changes in the rural hierarchies. But, though they produced a great 
deal of individual misery, the reforms instituted under Company rule 
did not seriously disturb the traditional agricultural economy. As 
Britain’s rule expanded, rural security grew, freed from irresponsible 
tyranny and banditry. At the same time, the alien revenue and 
judicial procedures which were introduced into village life tended 
to stifle initiative. 

In the areas where a permanent settlement on the zamindari 
principle was made, it led to considerable changes in the character 
of the land-owning classes. The number of absentee and essentially 
non-rural landlords increased, and the special relationship between 
landlord and peasant suffered accordingly. The area of land under 
cultivation increased rapidly, partly because of the changes in owner- 
ship and the need for larger cash returns, and partly because of 
population pressures. But the cultivators themselves did not benefit 
in any way. In zamindari settlement areas, the tendency was towards 
large estates, which led to a substantial increase in the proportion 
of landless labourers. This was not the case in ryotwari areas. 

The social side-effects of Western Judicial and revenue procedures 
helped to petrify existing agricultural techniques, and it was not 



until the second half of the nineteenth century that the government 
made any really large-scale attempt to improve them. Nevertheless, 
within the limits of the Company's finances, some work was done 
to clean up and rc-furbish existing systems of irrigation, which had 
fallen into decay during the troubled years which preceded the 
expansion of British dominion.* Renovation of canals was only 
one aspect of the government’s activity. Another was the construc- 
tion of protective embankments designed to prevent rivers from 
overflowing into low-lying fields during the monsoon. This work was 
begun in northern India in the 1820s and in southern India in 1834. 
Unfortunately, in many areas the rise of subsoil water levels led 
both to sahnation - which destroyed soil fertility - and to a high 
incidence of malaria as a result of increased breeding of the anopheles 
mosquito in stagnant waters. 

The company’s main agricultural innovations consisted of attempts 
to exploit, and in some cases introduce, exotic commercial crops 
such as indigo, opium, cotton, jute, and tea. The production of 
these crops was almost entirely a European monopoly. Indigenous 
indigo production was expanded, particularly in Bengal, and the 
export figures reached about 10,000,000 lb. in 1848-49. The 
production of tea - whose large-scale cultivation began with the 
importation of plants and seeds from China and the almost simultan- 
eous discovery of wild plants in Assam - quickly expanded to reach 
approximately 22,000 lb. in 1851. Opium, which remained a 
government monopoly until the end of British rule, contributed 
substantially to the total revenue; 1849-50. The 

importance of the opium trade with China had led to the so-called 
Opium War of 1839-42. During this war, which was intended to 
force the Chinese government to allow uninterrupted trade in 
opium, the Company’s opium revenue fell to about ^^300,000. 
After its successful conclusion, however, John Capper was able to 
report (in 1853) that ‘at no period of tlic history of this article has 
the trade in it to China been carried on so successfully and so 
extensively as during the last few years’ [ 1 ], 

As early as 1788, the Court of Directors of the East India Company 
had urged the government of Bengal to encourage the growth of 
cotton. The short staple of Indian cotton was not suitable for machine 
*Sce appendix, ‘Irrigation Works*, page 93. 



spinning, and attempts were made to introduce new, long-staple 
varieties. But shipments of these to Britain declined while imports 
into Britain from the U.S.A. showed a tremendous increase. Many 
people were convinced that the Company had not really tried. 
‘The Honourable Company’, wrote John Capper, ‘have, during a 
period of about seventy years, introduced a dozen American 
planters, a score of ploughs, a few hundred bushels of seed, opened 
a model farm or two, offered some paltry premiums, and lately 
despatched two hundred cotton-gins for distribution amongst two 
millions of cultivators; and when all these gigantic efforts, paraded 
through whole hecatombs of despatches that would supply ample 
fuel for a hundred suttees - when these have all failed, the red- 
tapists protest that all has been done that can be done!’ [ 2 ]. In fact, 
there was considerable resistance to growing long-staple cotton on 
the part of the cultivators, who preferred to produce the indigenous 
variety for sale in local markets. Indian cotton continued to have 
a substantial market in Cliina and other parts of South-east 

All these principally European activities affected agriculture only 
in that they gave employment to a large number of landless 
labourers. They were, too, purely local in scale. Indeed, no general 
statement on the effects of British rule on Indian agriculture before 
1858 has any validity. The true index of impact should be the 
rise or fall in the standard of living, and it has been suggested that a 
long-drawn-out depression between 1825 and 1854 adversely affected 
the standard of living in rural India. This seems highly unlikely, 
but there are no adequate statistics in support of cither view. The 
standard of living cannot, however, be used as a touch-stone, since 
before the construction of roads and railways, rural India consisted 
of a vast number of isolated areas which were virtually self-contained 
and affected only by natural calamities and strictly local disturbances. 
Trade in agricultural produce was conducted at small local markets, 
and prices varied from place to place. Bumper crops produced 
local surpluses and depressed local prices; in the absence of adequate 
transport facilities, surpluses could not be moved for sale elsewhere. 
Nor could local shortages be remedied by purchase from other 

Local shortages were frequently severe, and famine struck at 



various parts of India. It brought intense local suffering. An eye- 
witness of the terrible famine in the Guntur district of Madras in 
1833 said: ‘The description in The Siege of Corinth of dogs gnawing 
human skulls is mild as compared with the scene of horror we arc 
daily forced to witness in our morning and evening rides. ... It is 
dreadful to see what revolting food human beings may be driven to 
partake of. Dead dogs and horses are greedily devoured by these 
starving wretches; and the other day, an unfortunate donkey having 
strayed from the fort, they fell upon him like a pack of wolves, 
tore him limb from limb, and devoured him on the spot’ [j]. Nearly 
half the population died and more than two-thirds of the livestock. 
Some relief works were begun, and substantial remissions were made 
in the revenue demand, but the government had no general famine 
policy. A similar famine occurred in northern India in 1837. The 
government’s attitude to local scarcity, however, was based upon 
economic principles and the sacred law of supply and demand which 
ought to have moved food from surplus to scarcity areas and should 
not be interfered with. Unfortunately, lack of communications 
inhibited the operation of this law, and relief works usually came 
too late. 

On the whole, governmental interference in the traditional sector 
of agriculture was confined to the pursuit of policies which were not 
directly economic in purpose. The effect of the policies varied from 
place to place and depended, to a large extent, on the ignorance or 
over-enthusiasm of local British officials. In certain areas, land ceased 
to be cultivated because of over-assessment or even of brutality on the 
part of subordinate revenue officers. This state of affairs was only 
temporary, however, and by 1858 the difficulty was less to produce 
revenue than to find land for cultivation. Where government policies 
did have an effect was on the composition of the property-owning 
classes, the incidence of rural indebtedness, and - by default - the 
preservation of social customs which tended to reduce the economic 
viability of landholdings. 

There were a number of reasons for the negative attitude taken by 
the Company’s government. There was Britain’s attachment to the 
economic principles of laissez-faire^ which condemned government 
interference in the mechanism of supply and demand as particularly 
mischievous. There were the problems of security facing an alien 



minority whose principal aim was to preserve civil peace. Direct 
interference in the modes of traditional agriculture would have 
meant interference in long-established social customs, and this, in 
turn, would have led to resentment and possibly revolt - which 
would have interrupted the collection of that revenue on which the 
administration depended. The principal reason, however, was that 
the government was indifferent to indigenous agriculture. Commer- 
cial crop production was almost entirely in European hands (though 
until 1837 Europeans could not own land in India), and the Company 
itself was more interested in trade until it had to surrender its 
commercial functions under the Charter Act of 1833. 

Trade, Industry and Transport 

Before the East India Company conquered Bengal, it had been 
obliged to send out from England large amounts of bullion (between 
^400,000 and ^500,000 a year) with which to buy goods for export 
from India. After it gained control of the revenues of Bengal, 
however, it stopped sending out bullion and used part of the revenues 
to buy goods. According to Charles Grant, ‘in the thirty years 
following the acquisition of the Bengal provinces, this nation 
[Britain] by public and private channels, derived from them alone, 
exclusive of its other Eastern dependencies and of the profits of goods 
remitted, fifty millions sterling’ [4]. 

The Company did its best to restrict the activities of British private 
traders in India, but encouraged foreign traders ~ because they paid in 
bullion to the Company’s agents. British traders were allowed to 
transport their goods to Europe only in Company ships. The Com- 
pany did, however, encourage inland trade. This was in its own 
interests, since any general rise in prosperity increased Company 
revenue. On the other hand, by encouraging competition in this 
way, it was undermining its own n^onopoly . 

The Company’s attitude towards British traders, and to its own 
servants, encouraged clandestine investment. Before 1772, the 
Company ’s'servants had made substantial profits to the detriment of 
their masters* profits. When the Company forbade this activity, it 
was forced to go underground. Native merchants were used as a 
trading front, and foreign traders as the means by which what were, 
in eflfect, illegal profits could be remitted to England. The use of 



native merchants in this context was to be of supreme importance in 
helping to create an Indian commercial middle class. The merchants 
played an extremely active role as middlemen, and the benefits they 
gained were not only material. 

Clandestine European investment in Indian trade had a compara- 
tively short life. The administration continued to restrict direct 
participation in trade by the Company’s servants, and this helped 
to create new avenues of investment. A number of Company servants 
left their employment and began mercantile careers, attracting the 
investments of friends who remained in the Company’s service. The 
need to provide some mechanism for investment led to the creation 
of the agency house system. The agency houses accepted investment 
from the Company’s military and civil employees and used it for 
trading in India instead of remitting it home. In these houses, Indians 
received training in European business methods, and many of them 
later set up -their own organizations on the joint stock principle. 
They succeeded mainly because the Company prohibited European 
private merchants from residing in the interior; the agency houses did 
their business with Indian merchants. 

Thomas Bracken was a partner in the largest of the agency houses. 
‘The commerce of Calcutta’, he said, ‘was in the hands of a very small 
number of houses before the opening of the present charter [of 1813] ; 
previous to that time the houses were chiefly formed of gentlemen 
who had been in the civil and military services, who, finding their 
habits perhaps better adapted for commercial pursuits, obtained 
permission to resign their situations, and engage in agency and 
mercantile business. They had of course a great many friends and 
acquaintances in their respective services, and from those gentlemen 
they received their accumuJations. They lent them to others, or 
employed them themselves, for purposes of commerce; they were, 
in fiict, at first the distributors of capital rather than the possessors 
of it. They made their profits in the usual course ot trade, and by 
the ditterence of interest in lending and borrowing money, and 
by commission. In the course of time, carrying on a successful 
commerce, many became possessors of large capital and returned to 
this country [Britain] leaving the most part of it there [India] ; but the 
persons who succeeded generally came in without capital of their 
own, the same system being continued, and those houses became the 




usual depository of the savings and accumulations of the military and 
civil services in India’ [5]. 

Before 1813, the Company’s attitude remained, generally speaking 
biased against British private merchants. Theoretically, this should 
have stimulated the business of British agency houses, who could - 
and were encouraged to-operate on behalf of foreign merchants who 
brought bullion into the country. But it was the Indian agency 
houses which benefited, for they transacted business at lower rates 
than the British. The Americans, for example, who were by far the 
largest group of foreign merchants operating in the India trade, 
usually employed Indian firms. 

The Company’s policies, if they can be dignified as such, were 
contradictory. The Company held a trading monopoly, but 
continually encouraged everyone except British merchants to break 
it. It actively promoted the large-scale production of plantation crops 
such as indigo and cotton, but prohibited Europeans from directly 
owning land. It forced British merchants to use only Company ships, 
which could not carry the increased cargoes, so the business went to 
foreign instead of British ships. By denying British merchants access 
to the interior, the Company allowed itself to be cornered by a new 
Indian commercial class, which brought goods and produce to 
Calcutta where the Company had to pay cash for them. 

The Charter Act of 1813, however, opened up the India trade to 
British private enterprise, though some restrictions remained until the 
Company’s economic role was completely abolished in 1833. 
opening up of the country was a qualified disaster for indigenous 
industry. Indian exports of cotton piece-goods declined, after 1815, 
to a negligible figure, while imports of machine-made cloth from 
Lancashire, through private traders, rose very substantially. This 
virtually destroyed the indigenous cotton industry, for the handloom 
could not compete with the machine, even when that machine was 
several thousand miles away. 

As its commercial activities declined, the Company became 
convinced that something ought to be done about Indian industry. 
The Court of Directors, in a despatch of 1 1 June 1823, attributed the 
decline in cotton manufacture to ‘the improved state of machinery 
in Europe, and the protection which the countries in Europe and the 
United States of North America arc giving to their own manufac- 



turcs by heavy duties on foreign goods or by absolute prohibition’ and 
recommended ‘the removal of all unnecessary charges from the native 
manufacture, especially when it is considered that the piece-goods of 
Great Britain are introduced into India at a rate of duty considerably 
lower than that to which the native manufactures are liable on 
transit within India’. Some transit dues were abolished, but the 
evidence given by Sir Charles Trevelyan to a Select Committee of 
the House of Commons in 1840 made it obvious that any remedies 
would be too late. ‘The peculiar kind of silky cotton formerly grown 
in Bengal, from which tlic fine Dacca muslins used to be made, is 
hardly ever seen; the population of the town of Dacca has fallen from 
150,000 to 30,000 or 40,000 and the jungle and malaria are fast 
encroaching upon the town. The only cotton manufactures which 
stand their ground in India arc of the very coarse kinds, and the 
English cotton manufactures are generally consumed by all above 
the very poorest throughout India. . . . Dacca, which was the 
Manchester of India, has fallen off from a very flourishing town to a 
very poor and small one; the distress there has been very great 
indeed’ [6]. 

The real decline in indigenous Indian industry began with the 
increase of imports in cotton goods and continued throughout the 
nineteenth century. But the decline was patchy. Generally speaking, 
handicraft industries suffered severely, and there was no way in which 
the unemployed artisans could be absorbed into the economy except 
as landless labourers. English handloom weavers had suffered in the 
same way as Indians by the coming of the machine, but they had 
found a place (though not without misery) in the new machine- 
textile industries of Lancashire. In India, it was to be many years 
before such an industry was established. It was an outstanding 
feature of the pattern of Indian economic life under British rule that 
that pattern should be profoundly disturbed by an industrial revo- 
lution taking place many thousands of miles away in Britain, without 
absorbing any of the compensating benefits which would have 
flowed if the revolution had taken place in India. Nevertheless, the 
forces of capitalist enterprise reached India and brought profit to the 
commercial middle classes who were later to develop interests in 
Indian industry. 

Before this came about, however, there was to be a radical change 



in the overall pattern of India’s external commerce. This was brought 
about partly by the withdrawal after 1824 of the Company’s trading 
investment - which ran at about ;£2, 000,000 per annum - and partly 
by the severe financial crises of the 1830s, during which a number of 
agency houses collapsed. The subsequent shortage of capital helped 
to produce a complex and extremely shaky system of barter. Credit 
would be obtained in London for, say, a consignment of Manchester 
cloth, on the basis of a post-dated bill to be settled after the consign- 
ment had been sold in India. With the proceeds of the sale in Calcutta , 
Indian goods would be bought and shipped back to England. These 
having been sold, the bill could be paid, and the whole uncertain 
process begun again. 

The collapse of the agency houses led to mercantile and mana- 
gerial functions being separated from the financing side. A number 
of banks were established, and ultimately, because of the shortage of 
bullion, paper currency came into being. The establishment of 
Western-style banking institutions led to a considerable decline in the 
commercial activities of native bankers. Nevertheless, the economic 
activities of the Company and of private individuals continued to 
benefit the growing Indian middle class. 

The Hindus of Bengal had been among the first to profit from the 
introduction of British trading methods, but the Parsce community 
of Bombay was not far behind. ‘The Persees’, wrote William Milburn 
in 1813, ‘rank next to the Europeans. They arc active, industrious, 
clever, and possess considerable local knowledge. Many of them arc 
very opulent, and each of the European houses of agency has one of 
the principal Persee merchants concerned with it in most of their 
foreign speculations. They have become the brokers and banians 
[traders] of the Europeans. The factors belonging to these different 
houses resident in China, Bengal, &c., arc generally Persees, and the 
correspondence is carried on in the country language, so that the 
British merchant knows no more than they communicate to him’ 
[ 7 ]. 

The general decline in the Company’s commercial activities after 
1813 left the expansion of trade in private hands. After 1833, inland 
transit duties were progressively abolished, as were a number of 
export duties. In 1848 the double duties which had been imposed on 
foreign shipping entering Indian ports were abandoned. Once more, 



the general expansion of trade benefited Indians rather than Euro- 
peans, as the Company’s restrictions on European immigration 
remained in force - though in a modified form. In 1852, the number 
of male Europeans resident in India was only about 6,000 (excluding 
the army), and of these some 2,000 were in the Company’s employ. 
Except for those engaged in planting, most non-official Europeans 
remained in the major towns. The extension of commerce resulted in 
more openings for employment for Indians and gave increased 
incentive for the establishment of Indian-owned organizations. 

Perhaps one of the most significant results of the extension of 
private trade was the growth of the mercantile community, both 
Indian and British, as a pressure group. The Calcutta-merchant 
interest and its influence in Britain has already been mentioned 
(see page 56) but, as trade organizations were established, it was also 
able to bring pressure to bear on the government of India. The first 
such organization, the Calcutta Trade Association, was founded in 
1830, and the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce followed four years 
later. They pressed the government of India for improvements in 
transport and the building of roads and railways. They demanded 
that trade should be freed from restrictions, and what they achieved 
they achieved not only for themselves but for all Indian traders. 
There was, in fact, a profound identity of interests between the 
newly-emerging Indian middle classes and the British mercantile 
community, and this was to have political consequences. 

The growth of factory and heavy industry in India was inhibited 
by Britain’s desire to retain India for as long as possible as a market 
for British manufactures. The Company did help an Englishman 
establish a modem iron foimdry in 1825, but the enterprise failed 
because supplies of charcoal were inadequate, and coal was not 
available. It was not until 1855 that a Dundee jute manufacturer 
brought machinery out to Bengal and established a mill to process 
the cloth on the spot. An American named Landon built a cotton 
mill at Baroach m 1853, and another was established in Bombay a 
year later by a Parsec. Before the end of Company rule, there was 
considerable expansion in both jute and cotton manufacture. 

I’he late arrival in India of the advanced technology of the 
industrial revolution resulted in the late emergence of an Indian 
industrial middle class. But there were other factors peculiar to India 



which also contributed. In the cotton industry, for example, there 
was little capital. Indian weavers were wage-earners who had little 
opportunity for saving. Even more important, artisans were a caste 
and sons followed fathers in their trade because there was no other 
possible occupation for them within the functional system of caste. 
There was lack of occupational mobility and there was also a 
restriction on the mobility of ideas. Techniques improved little, if at 
all, because ‘a ritual law in which every change of occupation, every 
change in work technique, may result in ritual degradation, is certainly 
not capable of giving birth to economic and technical revolutions 
from within itself, or even of facilitating the first germination of 
capitalism within itself* fc^]. 

This situation was perpetuated by the lack of control over pro- 
duction; there was no management in a modern sense. The trader, 
whether he was a European or an Indian middleman, was more 
interested in keeping up supplies than in technological progress. This 
conservative attitude petrified traditional methods. Such change as 
was achieved under Company rule owed most to the Company’s own 
servants, v\ ho were prepared to invest capital in industrial or quasi- 
industrial undertakings, in the knowledge that they could use their 
official positions to protect their investment. For private traders and 
commercial undertakings, the risk was greater. When private capital 
did become more adventurous, it confined its investment almost 
entirely to plantation industries, particularly after 1837 when Euro- 
peans were permitted to own land. Industrial investment by Indians 
was extremely slow in expanding, mainly because Indians had no 
way of hedging their risks. 

The expansion of inland trade - both in indigenous and imported 
goods - and the parallel expansion of an Indian manufacturing 
industry were entirely dependent upon the creation of an adequate 
system of communications. The foundations of such a system were 
laid during the last years of Company rule, but the advantages were 
not significantly felt until after the assumption of power by the 

Despite the fact that roads, in any modern sense, were non-existent 
before the i8jOs - and the same could be said for most European 
countries - British goods did penetrate even to some of the remotest 
parts of India. In some areas, rivers were extensively used for 



transport, and steam vessels made their appearance as early as 1828. 
Away from navigable rivers, such tracks as existed were usually 
unsuitable for wheeled traffic and disappeared altogether in the rainy 
season. The government constructed its first road (between Bombay 
and Poona) in 1830, and in 1839 took the momentous decision to 
construct a continuous highway from Calcutta to Delhi -linking such 
roads as already existed, bridging smaller rivers and streams, and 
supplying ferries and pontoons on the larger ones. This highway be- 
came the famous Grand Trunk Road, stretching for over a thousand 
miles across northern India. Other roads were constructed from Mad- 
ras to Bombay (800 miles) and from Bombay to Agra (900 miles). 
Since much of the road-building was dependent on the enthusiasm of 
District Officers, some areas were better provided for than others. 

In 1844 the first serious proposals were made for constructing 
railways in India. The initiative came from the European business 
community. The Directors in London were doubtful whether 
railways could be successfully built in India, because of the difficult 
terrain and wild extremes of climate. Since Hindus would possibly 
be barred by their caste customs from travelling by train, it was also 
open to question whether railways would pay. Although orthodox 
opinion, when consulted, did not support this theory, the Directors 
would not agree to do more than sanction the construction of a 
number of short experimental tracks in the first instance. In 1853, 
however, the governor-general. Lord Dalhousie, persuaded them 
that railw^ays would bring very considerable economic advantages. 
Less than three hundred miles of track were finished before the 
Mutiny of 1857, but a notable step had been taken towards progress 
in the years to come. 

Irrigation Works 

In the general chaos of the eighteenth century, the extensive canal 
system which had been created by the Muslim rulers of northern 
India fell into disuse and decay. In 1810, after the Company had 
acquired the Delhi Territory as a result of the second Maratha war, 
a committee of survey was set up to discover the state of the canals. 



but no acceptable plan for renovation could be agreed. In 1815, the 
governor-general, Lord Hastings, after seeing the situation for 
himself during the course of an up-country tour, ordered work to be 
begun on the West Jumna canal. A general superintendent of 
irrigation was appointed to Delhi in 1823, and work on the canal - 
445 miles in length - went on rapidly. The East Jumna canal was next 
to receive attention, and work on it was completed in 1830. 

The most important irrigation project begun under Company rule 
was the Ganges canal, which by April 1856 extended to nearly 450 
miles of main trunk and feeder branches. In the Punjab, which was 
finally annexed in 1849, several canals were found to be in good 
working order, and plans were drawn up for restoring others. The 
only major construction undertaken there was the Bari Doab canal ; 
325 miles of this had been excavated by 1856. 

In the Bombay presidency, little was attempted. In Madras, a few 
irrigation works were, however, carried out - entirely because of the 
enthusiasm of Arthur Cotton, an engineer officer. Against much 
opposition, he began to build a dam across the Coleroon river in 1836 
In 1853, a dam across the Krishna (Kistna) river was also begun. 

All the Company’s irrigation works were financially profitable. 
Water dues and, in some cases, increase in the revenue assessments, 
adequately covered costs. Nevertheless, the Company’s attitude 
remained parsimonious and - even though, after the first major 
works on the Western and Eastern Jumna canals, it became clear that 
there was a strong probability of substantial returns - the Dir- 
ectors authorized expenditure only with reluctance and, generally 
speaking, under the strongest pressure from administrators in India. 


The Objects of Social Lejiislation 

Even in the first uneasy years of their dominion, the British in India 
did have a concept of governmental responsibility for the welfare 
of the people they ruled. It was a concept whicli had emerged 
out of the years immediately following the battle of l^lassey, 
when the people of Bengal had suffered from the plundering of the 
Company’s servants. The Regulating Act of 1773 was designed to 



control the activities of the Company’s servants, its chief purpose 
being, in the words of Edmund Burke, ‘to form a strong and solid 
security for the natives’ [i]. Nevertheless, the government was 
anxious to avoid interfering in the social order. The Court of 
Directors put it precisely in a despatch sent in 1808 to the governor- 
general, Lord Minto, on the subject of Christian missions. ‘It will be 
your bounden duty’, they said, ‘vigilantly to guard the public 
tranquillity from interruption and to impress upon the minds of all 
the inhabitants of India, that the British faith, upon which they rely 
for the free exercise of their religion, will be inviolably maintained’ 
[2]. It was the government’s function to establish peace and order, to 
create a climate of Justice for all, to protect the people from govern- 
ment and its servants, and, in effect, to preserve the social order rather 
than to reform it. 

This was the continuing paternalist view of responsibility. But 
towards the end of the eighteenth century, there had begun to grow 
in Britain a degree of pressure in favour of opening up the Company’s 
dominions to Christian prosclytism (seepage 53 ff.). There was a sure 
conviction that Indian society was in desperate need of reform. This 
attitude frightened the Company, especially when it was expressed in 
such uncompromising terms as those used by Charles Grant. ‘We 
cannot avoid recognising in the people of Hindostan’, he wrote, ‘a 
race of men lamentably degenerate and base; retaining but a feeble 
sense of moral obligation; yet obstinate in their disregard of what 
they know to be right, governed by malevolent and licentious 
passions, strongly exemplifying the effects produced on society by a 
great and general corruption of manners’ [3]. The evangelicals - in 
Britain, at least - did not believe that man could be reformed by 
legislation, but they did believe that certain practices which offended 
against ‘moral law’ should be removed by act of government. 
William Wilberforce and his associates procured the cessation of the 
slave trade, and it was necessary - necessary, that is, to the conscience 
of British Christians - that the government of India should proceed 
against similar evils. 

The Company resisted both missionaries and reform, but the terms 
of the Charter Act of 1813 compelled it to allow some Christian 
activity in Company territories. It did its considerable best, however, 
to impede what it regarded as the unsettling work of missionaries. 



Nevertheless, some of the Company’s own servants, both civil and 
military, were becoming so conscious of their ‘Christian duty’ that 
one of the leading protagonists of non-interference. Sir Thomas 
Munro, was driven to protest in 1821 that he could not share the 
faith ‘in the modem doctrine of the rapid improvement of the 
Hindoos, or of any other people. The character of the Hindoos is 
probably much the same as when Vasco da Gama first visited India, 
and it is not likely that it will be much better a century hence. When 
I read, as I sometimes do, of a measure by which a large province had 
been suddenly improved, or a race of semi-barbarians civilized 
almost to Quakerism, I throw away the book* [ 4 ]. 

The government’s policy, however, could not fail to be influenced 
by the general pressure against its toleration of the less humane 
practices of Hindu society. Slavery had early attracted the attention 
of British administrators. In 1774, Warren Hastings had expressed 
the opinion that it must be abolished - though two years earlier a law 
had been passed decreeing that the families of convicted bandits 
(dacoits) were to be sold into slavery. This had been defended on the 
grounds that slaves were very well treated in India. Sir William 
Jones, in an address to a Calcutta jury in 1785, discounted this 
argument: ‘Hardly a man or woman exists in a comer of this 
populous town who hath not at least one slave child, either purchased 
at a trifling price or saved for a life that seldom fails of being miser- 
able. Many of you, I presume, have seen large boats filled with such 
children coming down the river for open sale at Calcutta. Nor can 
you be ignorant that most of them were stolen from their parents 
or bought for perhaps a measure of rice, in time of scarcity’ [5]. In 
1789, Lord Cornwallis tried to put a stop to slave trading by issuing 
a proclamation forbidding the collection of adults and children 
for export overseas or to parts of India not under British control. 

The British parliament’s anti-slavery legislation of 1807 led to 
renewed interests in Indian slavery. Conditions differed throughout 
India, but there could be no doubt that slavery was widespread or 
that the slave trade was extremely profitable. The government 
moved slowly, however, unwilling to alienate the powerful com- 
mercial interests involved in the trade. In 1811, it went so &r as to 
forbid the importation of slaves into British India, but Charles 
Metcalfe observed in 1812 that the number of slave merchants in 



Delhi was actually increasing. He took action first and informed 
the government afterwards. ‘Being satisfied that it was not the 
intention of the Government that this iniquitous traffic should be 
encouraged’, he reported, he had taken steps to prohibit ‘this 
abominable commerce ... the sale of Human beings in the town and 
country ofDihlec [Delhi]* [6]. He was severely censured for extending 
his prohibition to include the resale of slaves, ‘a measure which his 
Lordship in Council was not prepared to sanction’ [7]. Persons 
already slaves were to remain subject to resale. 

In 1832, the purchase or sale of slaves between one administrative 
district and another was prohibited, but transactions within a district 
still remained legal. In 1833, ^be Charter Act required the governor- 
general to abolish slavery - but only when it was practicable and 
safe to do so. In fact, the sale of children continued even in Calcutta, 
the scat of government, until an Act was passed in 1843 prohibiting 
the legal recognition of slavery. This was an attempt at indirect aboli- 
tion, but it was only when the new penal code was enacted after the 
assumption of power by the Crown that the trade in, and possession 
of, slaves finally became illegal. The effects of even this legislation 
were slow. There was no emancipation of slaves, and only the 
most lethargic drift away to other occupations. 

The problems of human sacrifice and female infanticide first 
attracted government action in 1802. After an investigation made by 
the Baptist missionary, William Carey, into the religious back- 
ground of the custom of tlirowing Hindu children to the sharks at 
Saugor island in Bengal, Lord Wellesley had the practice suppressed. 
Female infanticide was discovered to be more widespread, existing 
not only among some so-called primitive tribes but also among 
certain Rajput castes. By a Bengal Regulation (XXI) of 1795, the 
practice was declared to constitute murder, and the territory to which 
the Regulation applied was extended in 1804. But the practice 
continued, and it was extremely difficult to suppress without actually 
penetrating into people’s homes. The energy of a number of 
administrators slowly wore the practice down, both in British India 
and in some princely states where the British were even more 
reluctant to interfere, but although a number of states prohibited 
female infanticide, it still proved impossible to stamp it out com- 
Ictcly. William Sleeman, making a journey through the independent 



kingdom of Oudh in 1849-50, asked a respectable Rajput landowner 
about infanticide and was told that the custom of destroying female 
infants was of great antiquity. One of the reasons for it, he was told, 
was that it was impossible for a cliild to marry outside her own caste. 
Slecman thought the custom ‘a misfortune, no doubt’, but felt that it 
‘could not be got rid of’. Mothers ‘wept and screamed a good deal 
when their first female infants were torn from them, but after two or 
three times giving birth to female infants, they become quiet and 
reconciled to the usage, and say “do as you like”; that some poor 
parents did certainly give their daughters for large sums to wealthy 
people of lower clans, but lost their caste for ever by so doing; that it 
was the dread of sinking, in substance from the loss of property, and 
in grade from the loss of caste, that alone led to the murder of female 
infants; that the dread prevailed more or less in every Rajput clan, 
and led to the same thing, but most in the clan that restricted the 
giving of daughters in marriage to the smallest number of clans.’ 

The infant was usually destroyed in the room where it was born. 
According to Slecman, the juice of a particular shrub was placed in 
the child’s mouth, which was then covered with the faeces which 
first passed from its bowels. When the child was dead - and 
sometimes when it was not - it was buried in the earth that formed 
the floor of the room. The floor was then covered with cow dung, 
an antiseptic. On the thirteenth day after the burial, the family priest 
cooked and ate a meal in the room. ‘He is provided with wood, ghi, 
barley, rice and tilli (sesamum). He boils the rice, barley and sesamum 
in a brass vessel, throws the ghi over them when they are dressed and 
eats the whole. This is considered as a burnt-offering, and by eating 
it in that place the priest is supposed to take the whole sin upon 
himself, and to cleanse the family from it. . . . After the expiation 
the parents again occupy the room, and there receive the visits of 
their family and friends, and gossip as usual’. 

It was demonstrated by another Rajput landowner, who came i > 
Slecman with a petition relating to other matters, just how automatic 
female infanticide could be. He himself had saved his daughter from 
death two years earlier. ’When she was born he was oiu in his fields, 
and the females of the family put her into an earthen pot, buried her 
in the floor of the apartment where her mother lay, and lit a fire over 
the grave; that he made all haste home as soon as he heard of the 



birth of a daughter, removed the fire and earth from the pot, and 
took out his child. She was still living, but two of her fingers which 
had not been sufficiently covered were a good deal burnt. He had all 
possible care taken of her, and she still lives; and both he and his 

wife are very fond of her He had given no orders to have her 

preserved, as his wife was confined sooner than he expected; but the 
family took it for granted that she was to be destroyed, and in run- 
ning home to preserve her he acted on the impulse of the moment. 
The practice of destroying female infants is so general among this 
tribe, that a family commonly destroys the daughter as soon as bom, 
when the father is from home, and has given no special orders about 
it, taking it to be his wish as a matter of course’ [^]. 

The practice of female infanticide was generally confined to 
Rajputs, and was regarded with some loathing by other castes. In 
most cases, however - as the Rajput was generally the landlord - his 
tenants were reluctant to talk to Sleeman about it. ‘Our lives would 
not be safe for a moment were we to say anything, or to seem to 
notice such crimes.’ This was, perhaps, exaggeration - a case of 
telling the Englishman what he wanted to hear. Human life in India 
at the time was held at no great value. Woman was like any other 
piece of property, a mere chattel, and the fate of a girl child was a 
matter more for indifference than for horror or sympathy. 

As late as 1870, the government was compelled to pass yet another 
Act attempting to enforce the registration of births and regular 
verification of the fact that girl children were still alive. Gradually, 
however, the practice of infanticide was dying out. 

Among other abuses which offended against the ‘universal moral 
law’ was suttee. The word is an Anglo-Indian one, derived from sati 
(meaning virtuous one), which described the women who performed 
the rite. The rite itself should properly be called sahamaram, ‘dying in 
company with’. The practice was of long standing in India, and 
virtuous widows usually died in company with their husbands by 
allowing themselves to be burned to death on a funeral pyre. In 
general, the rite was confined to high-caste Hindus. The Muslim 
invaders of India had found it particularly objectionable, and the 
Mughal emperors had tried to discourage it. In the late seventeenth 
century, Aurangzeb issued an order that no women should be 
allowed to immolate themselves by fire. But the practice continued. 


BRITISH INDIA 1772-1947 

particularly (as in the case of female infanticide) in the Rajput states. 
In 1780, the deceased Raja of Marwar was joined in death by sixty- 
four wives. A Sikh prince of the Punjab took with him ten wives and 
no less than three hundred concubines. 

Such holocausts as these were not offensive to Hindus. Indeed, a 
suttee was a popular semi-religious festival. Although a number of 
individual British officials interfered at various times to prevent 
particular cases of suttee, this was not official policy. In 1803, Lord 
Wellesley had proposed to abolish suttee in the Company’s territories 
but he had first referred the idea to the Supreme Court in Calcutta. 
The court’s answer was cautious and pedantic. The government, it 
suggested, would be well advised to be guided by ‘the religious 
opinions and prejudices of the natives’. The government therefore 
compromised with half measures; in 1812 officials were instructed to 
permit the rite in cases where it was ‘countenanced by their [the 
Hindu] religion and to prevent it in others in which it is, by the same 
authority, prohibited’. This simply meant that suttee voluntarily 
embarked on by a widow over sixteen years of age and not pregnant 
would be permitted, although police were to ensure that the suttee 
ti/as voluntary and that women were neither drugged nor consigned 
forcibly to the flames. Understandably, the government’s attitude 
was ineffective in reducing the number of suttees. In fact, the 
presence of a police official at a widow-burning appeared to give 
government sanction to the affair. The number of suttees officially 
reported in Bengal increased from 378 in 1785 to 839 in 1818. 

However, the enforced presence of an official at these unpleasant 
rites brought a strong movement in the 1820s in favour of pro- 
hibition. Evidence began to pour in on the government. One Mr. 
Ewer, superintendent of police in Lower Bengal, submitted in 1818 a 
report on a suttee which is well worth quoting at length, since it 
gives a good description of what most suttees were like. ‘There arc 
very many reasons for thinking that such an event as a voluntarysut lee 
rarely occurs; few widows would think of sacrificing themselves 
unless overpowered by force or persuasion, very little of cither being 
sufficient to overcome the physical or mental powers of the majority 
of Hindu females. A widow, who would turn with natural in- 
stinctive horror from the first hint of sharing her husband’s pile, will 
be at length gradually brought to pronounce a reluctant consent 



because, distracted with grief at the event, without one friend to 
advise or protect her, she is little prepared to oppose the surrounding 
crowd of hungry Brahmins and interested relations. ... In this state 
of confusion a few hours quickly pass, and the widow is burnt before 
she has had time to think of the subject. Should utter indifference for 
her husband, and superior sense, enable her to preserve her judgment, 
and to resist the arguments of those about her, it will avail her little - 
the people will not be disappointed of their show; and the entire 
population of a village will turn out to assist in dragging her to the 
bank of the river, and in keeping her on the pile’ [p]. 

The general disgust of the Company’s servants, both civil and 
military, brought pressure to bear both on the government of India 
and on the Court of Directors in London. Religious and humanitarian 
societies in Britain published many pamphlets, some of them 
written by Indian administrators. But the government of India 
itself did little, although it allowed considerable discretion to its 
officials on the spot, who could permit or prevent a suttee as they 
thought fit. The government continued to submit a wide variety of 
reports to the Directors in London, from people who believed that 
such a long-established tradition should be left alone, and others who 
advocated complete and immediate prohibition. Suttee did, in fact, 
have some religious sanction, but many men other than Ewer were 
tHmvinced that widows were encouraged to burn themselves by 
relatives anxious to increase their share in the dead husband’s estate. 

d 1 ie Directors in London were under intensive fire, and on 17 June 
1S23 they wrote to the governor-general. ‘You are aware that the 
attention of parliament and the public has lately been called to the 
subject |of suttee]. It appears that the practice varies very much in 
diffiereiit parts of India both as to the extent to which it prevails and 
the enthusiasm by which it is upheld. ... It is upon intelligible 
grounds that you have adopted the rules which permit the sacrifice 
when clearly voluntary and conformable to the Hindu religion. But 
to us it appears very doubtful (and we are confirmed in this doubt by 
responsible authorities) whether the measures which have been taken 
in pursuance of this principle have not tended to increase rather than 
to diminish the practice. It is moreover with much reluctance that we 
consent to make the British Government, by specific permission of 
the suttee, an ostensible party to tlie '’.acrifice; we are averse also to the 



practice of making British courts expounders and vindicators of the 
Hindu religion when it leads to acts which not less as legislators than 
as Christians we abominate/ The Directors, however, left it to the 
governor-general’s discretion to do whatever his ‘superior means of 
estimating consequences may suggest’ 

The governor-general, Lord Amlierst, was convinced that the 
time was not right for abolishing suttee by legislative action. Hindus 
had presented petitions to the government protesting against 
preventive action on the part of officials. When the Bengali reformer. 
Ram Mohun Roy, wrote pamphlets to prove that suttee was not 
sanctioned by the Hindu scriptures, they aroused so much opposition 
that he went in fear of his life. Amherst preferred to w^ait and see, and 
to hope that ‘the more general dissemination of knowledge among 
the better informed Hindus themselves might . . . prepare gradually 
the minds of the natives for such a measure’ f i i ]. 

When Lord William Bcntinck arrived in 1828, however, there was 
a change of tempo. The Directors had instructed him to take steps to 
end the practice of suttee - whether gradually or immediately was for 
him to decide. Bentinck’s own temperament inclined liim towards 
instant reform. Though Ram Mohun Roy and a leading British 
orientalist, Horace Hayman Wilson, both submitted that a gradual 
approach would arouse no discontent and was much to be preferred, 
Bentinck could anticipate no such discontent from immediate 
abolition. Charles Metcalfe, who had prohibited suttee in Delhi 
when he was Resident there, was by now a member of the governor- 
general’s council. Although he thought that abolition might possibly 
be used ‘by the disaffected and designing to inflame the passions of 
the multitude and produce a religious excitement’, he nevertheless 
believed that the time would come ‘when it will be universally 
acknowledged by the people of India as the best act performed by 
the British Government. My only fears, or doubts, arc as to its early 
effect, and those are not so strong as to dissuade me from joining 
heartily in the suppression of the horrible custom by which so many 
lives are cruelly sacrificed’ [ 12 ]. 

On 4 December 1829, suttee was declared illegal in the Bengal 
Presidency (Regulation XVII). By this Regulation, anyone assisting 
a voluntary sacrifice was to be held guilty of culpable homicide, and 
anyone using violence to force a widow to burn herself was to be 



liable to the death sentence. A similar resolution was passed in Madras 
on 2 February 1830, and action was also taken to make it effective in 
Bombay. The Regulation aroused considerable agitation in Bengal, 
and a petition was submitted to Bentinck, protesting strongly against 
it. The petitioners even went so far as to appeal to the Privy Council 
in London (January 1830). However, the Directors presented an 
overwhelming case in favour of abolition, and they were reinforced 
by Ram Mohun Roy, who took to England a petition supporting 
the abolition of suttee. He himself presented it to parliament. The 
appeal was dismissed, and there were no disturbances in India. 

The practice of suttee lingered on for some time in various 
princely states, in the Punjab and the Rajputana, the last case 
occurring in Udaipur in 1861. As recently as 1932, however, the 
London Times reported a case of attempted suttee. At the last 
moment, the widow was saved from the flames by police action - 
in the course' of which, ironically, three other persons were killed. 

Another act of government aroused no public hostility, because 
its practical advantages were plain to everybody. This was the 
campaign for the suppression of Thuggee. The word ‘thug* was 
probably derived from the Sanskrit verb tha^m (to deceive), and the 
men who were called Tluigs should more accurately be termed 
plumsulars (noose-holders), because strangulation was the method 
the y used for murdering their victims before robbing them. 

The practice of Thuggee was of considerable antiquity. It is 
mentioned in a fourteenth-century history, and probably dates back 
very much further. During the reign of Shah Jahan - the Mughal 
emperor who built the Taj Mahal at Agra - the French traveller, 
de Theveiiot, reported tliat the road between Delhi and Agra was 
infested by Thugs, ‘the ciinningest Robbers in the World. . . They 
use a certain slip with a running noose which they can cast with so 
much slight about a Man’s Neck when they are within reach of him, 
tliat they never fail; so that they strangle him in a trice’ [15]. The 
British first began to realize that there was a murder organization 
operating towards the end of the eighteenth century, but they did 
not begin eflective action against it until 1829. 

'rhe Thugs were not ordinary criminals who murdered simply for 
gain. Their activities and their methods were ringed by divine 
sanction. According to their legends, in the remote past a great demon 



had roamed the earth devouring man as he was created. The earth 
was empty; no life could exist. Then the goddess Kali, ‘the black one’ 
- another face and form of Parvati, wife of Siva - came to the 
rescue. She battled with the demon and cut him down, but from 
every drop of blood that spilled to earth another demon appeared. 
The more of these killed by Kali, the more appeared. At last, in 
desperation, she turned to more subtle methods. Herself exhausted - 
for even the gods can suffer divine fatigue - she fashioned two men 
from the perspiration of her arms. To each she gave a square of cloth, 
and commanded them to kill the demons without shedding any 
drop of blood. Her command was obeyed, and soon all the demons 
were strangled. The two men, their task over, offered back the 
squares of cloth, but Kali refused them, bidding the men keep the 
cloths as a remembrance of her and use them as implements of a pro- 
fitable trade. 

It was William Sleeman who proved the existence of the powerful 
Thug confederacy operating over the whole of northern India. In 
1829, in the course of his reforms. Lord William Beiitinck authorized 
a special department to investigate and destroy the practice of 
Thuggee, and Sleeman was placed in charge of the whole operation 
in 1835. In 1839 he was appointed Commissioner for the Suppression 
of Thuggee and Dacoity. The Thug gangs were often protected by 
petty rajas and landowners, as well as by revenue-farmers who 
shared their profits. But the British were determined to suppress 
Thuggee once they had grasped its proportions. Revolted by the 
thought of murder for gain, and horrified by the supposed religious 
sanction given to it by Hinduism, they attacked the menace of 
Thuggee with single-minded energy - and stamped it out. 

The process of suppression was complex and difficult, for the 
British were sticklers for legality. Evidence mis collected, however, 
and between 1831 and 1837 more than three thousand Thugs were 
convicted. Five hundred of these saved their skins by becoming 
‘approvers’, or informers. The approvers were detained in special 
prisons, the principal one being at Jubbiilpore. Condemned Thugs 
appeared to suffer from no remorse. Indeed, one told an English 
officer that his (mly regret was that he had been caught before he 
had reached his target of a thousand murders. He was much upset at 
being halted at 719. By t86o. Thuggee was no more, though the 



office of Superintendent of Thuggee and Dacoity was maintained 
until 1904. 

Once these great and rather dramatic exercises in reform had been 
initiated, the government felt it had interfered enough. Apparently, 
the reaction to reformist legislation had been slight; in fact, the 
impact was very real as was to be shown by the Mutiny of 1857. The 
general movement of reform became subsidiary to the government’s 
military preoccupations from the end of the 1830s on, though there 
was little reduction in reformist pressures either in Britain or in India. 
Much of this agitation was concerned with the position of women in 
Hindu society. 

The history of female education is dealt with in an appendix in 
Part Two. Broadly speaking, the government was not willing to 
provide education for women, and did not do so until the end of 
Company rule; most schools for girls were the product of missionary 
activity. In response both to missionary pressure and the infiltration 
of general ideas of Western liberalism, a certain amount of agitation 
did, however, grow up over the status of women in general and 
widows in particular. A number of Indians proposed legislation to 
raise the minimum marriage age, and to permit the remarriage of 
Hindu widows. Although the government preferred not to initiate 
legi«^lation itself, and generally resisted attempts to pressurize it into 
enacting legislation which it believed would interfere in religious 
matters, it allowed itself to be persuaded by Isvarchandra Vidyasagar 
to pass the I lindu Widows Remarriage Act of 1856. 

Hindu polygamy was another matter which brought many 
petitions to the government between 1855 and 1857. In 1855, the 
Maharaja of Biirdwan described the evils he believed should be 
legislated against. The particular otFcnders were a Brahmin caste in 
Bengal known as Kulins. ‘Those Koolins’, wrote the maharaja, ‘who 
cannot get persons of equal caste willing to effect matrimonial 
alliances with them, nor afford the large marriage gratuities which 
are demanded, arc obliged to le't their daughters arrive at old age 
without bt'ing married. Koolin Brahmins never marry without 
receiving large donations and multiply wives for the sake of obtaining 
t!n>se gratuities without knowing or caring what becomes of the 
women to whom they are united by the most solemn rites of their 
religion. They have been known to marry more than a hundred 



wives each; and it is customary with them, immediately after going 
through the nuptial ceremony and receiving their gratuities, to 
leave the houses of the girls they have married, never to see their 
faces more’ [14]. Legislation was drafted, but the outbreak of the 
Mutiny held up proceedings, and when the lieutenant-governor of 
Bengal later asked the government of India to enact legislation it 
refused, on the grounds that it might set a precedent which might 
not be approved by others practising polygamy (principally Muslims) 
outside Bengal. 

Of the period up to 1857, it can be said that certain essential reforms 
were achieved as a result of legislative action stimulated by a positive 
desire for reform. The limits of security, however, made the govern- 
ment distinctly reluctant to go further. Western ideas, both secular 
and religious, had their effect on Indian intellectuals, and Hindu 
reform movements emerged in response to both governmental 
reforms and the government’s unwillingness to do more. 

The reaction of the masses to innovation and reform is difficult to 
assess. There was certainly bewilderment and resistance. That 
legislation against infanticide, suttee and Thuggee was widely 
accepted was due, in tlie main, to the fact that the first two were not 
generally practised and the third was a physical menace which most 
people were glad to have removed. When it came to such matters as 
female education and widow remarriage, however, no legislation - 
however enlightened - could be enforced. Such legislation as was 
passed was mostly ignored. 

There was undoubtedly a measure of real fear over certain aspects 
of Westernization. Macaulay’s famous description of the effects of 
British justice, though exaggerated, rests on a basis of truth. The 
Supreme Court of the time of Warren Hastings, he wrote, began a 
reign of terror, ‘of terror heightened by mystery; for even that which 
was endured was less horrible than that which was anticipated. No 

man knew what was next to be expected from this strange tribunal 

It consisted of Judges not one of whom spoke the language, or was 
familiar with the usages, of the millions over whom they claimed 
boundless authority. Its records were kept in unknown characters; 
its sentences were pronounced in unknown sounds. . . . No Maratha 
invasion had ever spread through the province such dismay as this 
inroad of English lawyers. All the injustice of former oppressors, 



Asiatic and European, appeared as a blessing when compared with 
thcjustice of the Supreme Court’ [13]. During the campaigns against 
the Marathas in the early nineteenth century, it was said that people 
fled not from the British army but from fear of the civil court. They 
had every reason to fear it for its function was to deal with matters of 
property and property rights, the settlement of debts, and so on, and 
it was preoccupied with documentary proof in a country where 
written leases were unknown. This meant that the court’s decision 
could easily lead to a peasant losing his land. 

It was not long, however, before Indians learned how to manipu- 
late the courts and, in particular, the European judges - who, as often 
as not, had little knowledge of the language and even less of custo- 
mary law. ‘Our Courts’, wrote Charles Metcalfe in 1820, ‘are scenes 
of great corruption. The European Judge is the only part of them 
that is untainted. He sits on a Bench in the midst of a General con- 
spiracy, and* knows that he cannot trust any one of the Officers of 
the Court. Everyone is labouring to deceive him and to thwart his 
desire for justice. The pleaders have no regard for truth’ [j^]. 

The law continued to appear strange and arbitrary. It was a 
menacing instrument breaking up the old pattern of life, placing 
traditional customs in peril, and threatening the livelihood of the 
peasant. Its mechanics brought into being a new class of oppressor, 
the pleaders, who were enabled by their superior knowledge of the 
law to take advantage of the peasant. Corruption lay about the 
courts of law until the end of British rule, and it did not vanish with 
independence. Instead of appearing as a tangible defence against 
injustice, the law itself seemed to be - and indeed, by default, acted as 
- an engine of tyranny. The very real protection that English law did 
offer could function only if it was asked for and accepted; but the 
general inclination of ordinary people in India was to avoid the 

The effects of the Company government’s social policy cannot be 
divorced from the general effects of Western ideas. The adminis- 
tration and the law courts pressed equally heavily upon the people. 
Alien in spirit, and operated by aliens, they caused uncase and 
apprehension even though they were not actively oppressive. In 
nordierii India, tensions grew inside society which were to be a 
contributory factor to the Mutiny of 1857. 



Public Health 

The government of India did not accept any major responsibility 
for public health until 1880. Until that date, it confined its activities 
to providing a certain amount of medical relief, some medical 
education, and nothing more. The reasons for this were fairly 
straightforward, especially during the period of Company rule. In 
the first place, medical knowledge was not far enough advanced to 
do more than recognize the existence of different tropical diseases. 
Secondly, the British had little expertise in matters of sanitation. 
And thirdly, when pressure for public health legislation came, it 
emerged as the result of similar pressure in Britain - where the first 
national Public Health Act (dealing with sanitation, drinking water, 
street cleaning, and so on) had not been passed until 1848. 

The East India Company had provided a doctor (known as a 
surgeon) in each of its early settlements. Hospitals were established at 
these settlements in 1664, but they did not have a particularly good 
reputation and it was generally believed that the odds on a sick 
patient recovering were infinitely greater if he stayed out of hospital. 
The services of the Company’s doctors were confined to the Com- 
pany’s servants, soldiers, and the population of the local Jail. Mortality 
was extremely high among Europeans, and contemporary medical 
science could do little about it. Towards the end of the eighteenth 
century, a hospital for Indians was opened in Calcutta, and others 
were established at Madras and Bombay about iSoo. By 1840, there 
were a dozen hospitals in various large towns throughout the 
British dominions. 

As far as indigenous medicine was concerned, there were two 
main systems. The ayurvedic system of the Hindus was of great 
antiquity and, in some areas, of considerable sophistication. The 
Muslim ufiani system was a mixture of Greek and Arabic medicine. 
Both systems had become rigid and unyielding, resistant to experi- 
ment as well as to the discoveries of other medical systems. They had 
become saturated with superstition and, in the eighteenth century, 
had largely fallen into decline. Eaily in the nineteenth century, 
however, the Sanskrit College at Benares and the Madrasa at 
Calcutta included the study of indigenous medicine in their curricula. 
In 1822, a separate school for training Indians in Western medical 
science was opened at Calcutta. It was intended to train assistants for 



the Company’s medical officers. There was, however, ‘only one 
teacher attached to the institution, and he delivered his lectures in 
Hindustance. The only medical books open to the pupils were a few 
short tracts which had been translated for their use into that language ; 
the only dissection practised was that of the inferior animals . . . The 
knowledge commimicatcd by such imperfect means could neither be 
complete nor practical’ [ 17 ]. 

In the schools teaching indigenous Hindu medicine, there was no 
dissection of human bodies because of the Brahminical injunction 
against touching the dead. When the Calcutta Medical College was 
founded in 1835, most of its students were Muslims who had no 
prejudice against the practice of anatomy. A Hindu, Pandit Madhu- 
sudan Gupta, did, however, perform a dissection in January 1836 and 
though it aroused horror among the orthodox he was hailed as a 
hero by the progressive. The government even went so far as to fire a 
salute of guns from Fort William to mark the occasion. Within the 
next few years, medical colleges were also founded in Bombay (1848) 
and Madras (1852). 

Indians graduating from these new colleges were expected to join 
the subordinate ranks of the government service. They were not 
permitted to become members of the Indian Medical Service itself - 
which was reserved for Europeans - and when Indians were un- 
avoidably appointed to the medical charge of civil stations it usually 
caused difficulties, as most Europeans did not want to be attended by 
Indian doctors. Graduates did, however, find a demand for their 
services among ‘natives of rank’, and it was reported that ‘men, after 
leaving the medical college, have refused appointments under the 
Government for the purpose of private practice’ [1^]. Nevertheless, 
their services were confined to ‘natives of rank’ and to the principal 
towns. Neither government nor private practitioners offered any 
service to the mass of the people. The government could hardly have 
done a great deal more than it did, for the state of preventive 
medicine was not advanced enough for positive action. Inoculation 
against smallpox had been introduced into India early in the nine- 
teenth century, but it was by no means widely accepted even among 
Europeans. Christian missionaries began some medical work before 
18 j8 and established colonies for lepers, but they too were inhibited 
by the limits of medical knowledge. 




The Story of educational progress under Company rule divides 
conveniently at the year 1835, when it was decided that English 
should be the language of instruction in higher education and that 
the purpose of education should be to disseminate Western know- 
ledge. This decision was to have far-reaclhng effects on India’s 
cultural and political life, and before it was arrived at there was 
considerable and occasionally bitter controversy between the 
supporters of what was then called ‘oriental education’ - using Indian 
languages as the media of instruction - and the advocates of English. 
Of the British in India, those who favoured the use of English 
received strong support from the new Indian middle classes, es- 
pecially in Bengal, which was the most advanced part of the British 
dominions. Those who supported the ‘oriental’ view were seeking, 
primarily, to perpetuate the attitude the Company had held since it 
assumed sovereign rights in India. 

The type of education the British had found when they arrived in 
India was almost entirely religious, and higher education for Hindus 
and Muslims was purely literary. Hindu higher education was almost 
a Brahmin monopoly. Brahmins, the priestly caste, spent their time 
studying religious texts in a dead language, Sanskrit. Hicre were a 
number of schools using living languages, but few Brahmins would 
send their children to such schools, where the main subject taught 
was the preparation of accounts. Muslim higher education was 
conducted in a living language - Arabic, which was not spoken in 
India. But there were also schools which taught Persian (the official 
language of government in India until 1837, when it was finally 
abandoned) and some secular subjects. 

Hindu and Muslim education had much in common. Both used, in 
the main, a language unknown to ordinary people. Both systems 
stuck firmly to traditional knowledge. Muslim education, however, 
was more democratic than Hindu, for where the latter was confined 
almost exclusively to the Brahmin castes, the former was open to all 
Muslims. The state - as distinct from individual rulers - accepted no 
responsibility for education. Schools existed on private or community 
funds. As late as 1835, the ancient scat of Hindu learning at Nadia 
in Bengal still managed to preserve ‘its character as a university’ 



because the local rajas ‘endowed certain teachers with lands for the 
instruction and maintenance of scholars’ [i]. This was not an isolated 
example. Muslim schools were similarly supported by Muslim 
rulers and communities. 

By the time the British began to exercise power in Bengal, 
however, the general state of the country had to some extent reduced 
private endowments for educational institutions. The new govern- 
ment’s first excursion into Indian education followed the traditional 
pattern of the country. In 1780, a Muslim teacher petitioned Warren 
Hastings on behalf of a number of leading Muslims and gave him 
the opportunity to demonstrate that the British were just as con- 
cerned with the patronage of education as their predecessors had 
been. In 1781, suitable quarters were found for a Muslim teacher 
[maulvi) and the Calcutta Madrasa was founded. What Hastings 
had done for Muslims was later to be done for Hindus. In 1792, a 
Sanskrit College was established at Benares, whose object was ‘the 
preservation and cultivation of the laws, literature and religion of 
that nation [the Hindu] at this centre of their faith and common 
resort of all their tribes’ [2]. The scholars at the Sanskrit College 
were to be examined four times a year in the presence of the British 
Resident at Benares - except in such religious matters as were not 
supposed to be discussed in the presence of non-Brahmins. Neither 
the Muslim nor the Hindu institution proved successful; both were 
riddled with feuds, the funds were improperly used, and there were 
frequent reports of ‘grave misconduct’ and ‘disorder’. 

In 1811, as is apparent from a rather incoherent Minute (dated 6 
March) of the governor-general. Lord Minto, the ‘orientalist’ 
school was uppermost. ‘It is common remark that science and 
literature are in a progressive state of decay amongst the natives of 
India. . . . The number of the learned is not only diminished, but the 
circle of learning, even among those who still devote themselves to 
it, appears to be considerably contracted. The abstract sciences arc 
abandoned, polite literature neglected, and no branch of learning 
cultivated but what is connected with the peculiar religious doctrines 
of the people. The immediate consequence of this state of things is 
the disuse, and even actual lass, of many valuable books ; and it is to be 
apprehended that, unless Government interfere with a fostering hand, 
the revival of letters may shortly become hopeless from a want of 



books or of persons capable of explaining them’ [5]. Nothing was 
actually done until the Charter Act of 1813, when the evangelicals 
managed to have a clause inserted in the charter to the effect that ‘it 
shall be lawful for the governor-gcneral-in-coimcil to direct that ... a 
sum of not less than one lakh [100,000] of rupees in each year shall be 
set apart and applied to the revival and improvement of literature 
and the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and for the 
introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among 
the inhabitants of the British territories in India’. The sum allocated 
was extremely small and no-one seemed to have much idea about 
how it should be used. The Directors* instructions were, perhaps 
deliberately, vague and it was 1815 before Lord Moira (later Mar- 
quess of Hastings), who was governor-general 1813-23, was able to 
consider what action might be taken. Hastings’ opinion was that 
there must be improvements in the education of the masses. ‘The 
remedy’, he said, ‘is to furnish the village schoolmasters with little 
manuals of religious sentiments and ethic maxims conveyed in such 
a shape as may be attractive to the scholars, taking care that while 
awe and adoration of the Supreme Being are earnestly instilled, no 
jealousy be excited by pointing out any particular creed’ [ 4 ], There 
were other equally woolly suggestions for helping institutions of 
higher learning. The Directors ignored them all, and for some 
years the education allocation was not disbursed. 

Though the Government appeared incapable of formulating any 
educational policy, private individuals and organizations were 
anxious to establish schools. They, unlike the government, wanted 
to provide Western education in the English language - which, 
though not explicitly stated, had been the intention behind the 
clause in the Charter Act of 1813. In 1817, a number of Indians and 
British established the Calcutta School Book Society and the Hindu 
College. Their example was followed by others, and more schools 
teaching English were established, some sponsored by missionaries, 
others by Indians. Their motives differed. Most Indians saw English 
education as a passport to official appointments and as a tool of 
commerce. The missionaries, on the other hand, saw it as a means 
to conversion through which Indians ‘now engaged in the degrading 
and polluting worship of idols shall be brought to the knowledge of 
the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent’ [5]. 



The government’s slowness in implementing the educational 
clause of the 1813 Charter Act was partly due to security considera- 
tions - for it believed that it was a dangerous policy to interfere in 
any way with traditional patterns of Indian society - and partly to 
the pressures of ‘orientalist’ opinion. It still did not consider it to be 
the government’s duty to sponsor English education. In 1823 it 
established a General Committee of Public Instruction, whose 
function was to take charge of existing government educational 
institutions and to administer the educational grant. The committee 
was further to enquire into the educational situation and to advise 
on measures for the better instruction of the people and the ‘improve- 
ment of their moral character’. But the committee soon found itself 
overwhelmed by its task. Taking the easy way out, it decided to 
spend the allocation on supporting Sanskrit and Arabic learning. 
There was considerable opposition to the government’s decision 
in 1823 to found and support a new college for Sanskrit studies. 
Ram Mohun Roy, the Bengali reformer, in a letter to the governor- 
general expressed the Sentiments of those who wanted the intellec- 
tual and material advantages which would result from their being 
given access to ‘mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, 
anatomy, and other useful sciences, which the natives of Europe 
have carried to a degree of perfection that has raised them above the 
inhabitants of other parts of the world’. They were, Roy continued, 
horrified at the idea that they were to receive instead a school 
which could ‘only be expected to load the minds of youth with 
grammatical niceties and metaphysical distinctions of little or no 
practical use to the possessors or to society’. If it was the govern- 
ment’s policy to ‘keep this country in darkness’, establishing a 
Sanskrit college was the best way of going about it [ 6 ]. But this and 
other protests had no effect. It was the committee’s opinion that 
‘tuition in European sciences [is] neither among the sensible wants of 
the people nor in the power of the Government to bestow’ [7]. 

The committee members’ response may have been inspired by 
the radical political and social views expressed by the staff and 
students of the Hindu College, but, whatever the cause, they were 
fighting a losing battle. Not only was there a general desire among 
Indians - particularly in Bengal - for English education, but the 
influence of reformers and political thinkers in Britain was behind 


it too. The famous missionary, Dr. Duff, recalled that in Calcutta 
‘the excitement for Western education continued unabated. They 
pursued us along the streets; they threw open the doors of our 
palankeens; they poured in their supplications with a pitiful 
earnestness of countenance which might have softened a heart of 
stone’ [S], 

The stone was already softening, and for sound ideological 
reasons. Lord William Bcntinck, already engaged in a number of 
reforms, wrote to the Committee of Public Instruction on 26 June 
1829. ‘Impressed with a deep conviction of the importance of the 
subject,’ he said, ‘and cordially disposed to promote the great 
object of improving India by spreading abroad the lights of European 
knowledge, morals, and civilisation, his Lordship in Council has no 
hesitation in stating to your Committee and in authorising you to 
announce to all concerned in the superintendence of your native 
seminaries that it is the wish and admitted policy of the British 
Government to render its own language gradually and eventually 
the language of public business throughout the country, and that 
it will omit no opportunity of giving every reasonable and practical 
degree of encouragement to the execution of this project*. 

The committee at this time was evenly divided between orien- 
talists and anglicizers. While they debated, private initiative continued 
to expand the number of schools teaching the English language and 
Western subjects. The orientalists were, in fact, losing ground. 
Their essentially conservative attitude was quite alien to the new 
spirit which permeated Britain’s view of her responsibilities in India. 
When Macaulay arrived in India, this spirit - already expressed by 
Bentinck - received powerful reinforcement. Macaulay’s Education 
Minute of 1835 (extracts from which are given in the appendix, 
page 122) summed up the reformist attitude. The decision to make 
English the medium of higher education was announced in a brief 
resolution on 7 March 1835. ‘His Lordship is of the opinion’, said 
the first paragraph of the resolution, ‘that the great object of the 
British Government ought to be the promotion of European 
literature and science among the natives of India, and that all the 
funds appropriated for the purpose of education would ‘be best 
employed on English education alone.’ 

The decision to divert government funds to the provision of 


English education alone not only satisfied the demands of the 
growing Hindu middle classes but also met the fundamental 
problems of the economy. The government’s resources were 
strictly limited. The cost of any project to translate textbooks into 
Indian languages, for example, would have been ruinously expen- 
sive. All practical considerations were in favour of using English 
textbooks. The same considerations demanded that the scope of 
education should be limited, though it was hoped that knowledge 
could be diffused. Once certain sections of the population had been 
given an English education, the government thought, they would 
be able to pass on the knowledge they had acquired to their country- 
men ~ in their own languages. ‘The rich, the learned, the men of 
business, will first be gained’, wrote Macauhy’s brother-in-law, 
Charles Trevelyan. ‘A new class of teachers will be trained; books 
in the vernacular language will be multiplied; and with these 
accumulated means we shall in due time proceed to extend our 
operations from town to country, from the few to the many, until 
every hamlet shall be provided with its elementary school. The 
poor man is not less the object of the committee’s solicitude than 
the rich; but, while the means at their disposal were extremely 
limited, there were millions of all classes to be educated. It 
was absolutely necessary to make a selection, and they therefore 
selected the upper and middle classes as the first object of their 
attention, because, by educating them first, they would soonest 
be able to extend the same advantages to the rest of the people’ 

The decision to concentrate on providing Western education in 
the English language was made from other motives than economy, 
though that was undoubtedly of first importance. But education 
had moral, political and commercial overtones in the eyes of such 
men as Macaulay. He, and those who thought like him, were 
following evangelical rather than Utilitarian principles. It was 
Charles Grant who was the propliet of English education in India, 
not James Mill. Indeed, Mill was highly sceptical about the effective- 
ness of any form of education in India. The moral overtones were, of 
course, Christian in character. They were reflected by Macaulay in a 
letter to his father in 1836, in which he forecast that in thirty years’ 
time there would be not a single idolater among the respectable 



classes in Bengal, a situation which would be brought about merely 
by the diffusion of knowledge. 

That many Indians were aware that there was a proselytizing 
purpose behind English education had been shown in their suspicion 
when such education was offered by missionaries. Bishop's College, 
for example, which had been established in Calcutta in 1820, would 
not admit non-Christians; its real function was to create missionaries 
who would go out and evangelize the heathen. It never attracted 
more than eleven scholars at any one time during the twenty-five 
years following its establishment. Though great pressure was 
brought to bear on the government, from both Britain and India, to 
introduce religious instruction into government schools, it refused 
to depart from its traditional neutrality in matters of religion until 
1854, by which time it had become clear that Macaulay’s hopes for 
conversion-by-cxample had not been realized. The moral motive 
also had a more immediate and practical application. With adminis- 
trative reforms, a growing number of Indians were joining govern- 
ment service, with increasing responsibility and powers, particularly 
in the judicial and revenue branches. English education was intended 
to make them morally and intellectually ‘fit’ to perform their 
duties with efficiency and probity. 

The commercial motive was also extremely powerful, and it 
gained for the cause of English education the full support of the 
mercantile community in Calcutta as well as in Britain. The 
economic activities of the British had already produced a commercial 
middle class in India, on whose co-operation the expansion of the 
economy depended. Co-operation was needed not only for exploit- 
ing India’s natural resources; it was essential to the creation of that 
prosperity which would lead to the purchase and consum[Uion of 
British goods. To people who thought in these terms, commerce 
was more important than conquest. Macaulay, who is so frequently 
the mouthpiece of his times, put the case in his great speech in the 
House of Commons on the Charter Act of 1833. ‘The mere extent of 
empire is not necessarily an advantage. To many governments it 
has been cumbersome; to some it has been fatal. It will be allowed 
by every statesman of our time that the prosperity of'a country is 
made up of the prosperity of those who compose the community, 
and that it is the most childish ambition to covet dominion which 



adds to no man’s comfort or security. ... It would be, on the most 
selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of India were 
well-governed and independent of us, than ill-governed and subject 
to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our 
broadcloth, and working with our cutlery, than that they were 
performing their salaams to English collectors and English magis- 
trates but were too ignorant to value* or too poor to buy English 
manufactures’ [id]. 

Though Macaulay and others looked forward to a future in which 
Indians, having acquired a taste for ‘European civilization’, might 
demand European institutions and even independence from Britain, 
it was to a very distant future. In the meantime, there remained the 
essential problem facing an alien government - the avoidance of 
popular revolt. English education, it was believed, would play 
its part here, too. ‘The political education of a nation is a work of 
time’, wrote Charles Trevelyan, ‘and while it is in progress, we shall 
be as safe as it will be possible for us to be. The natives will not rise 
against us, we shall stoop to raise them; there will be no reaction, 
because there will be no pressure the national activity will be 
fully and harmlessly employed in acquiring and diffusing European 
knowledge, and in naturalising European institutions. The educated 
classes, knowing that the elevation of their country on these 
principles can only be worked out under our protection, will 
naturally cling to us. . . . The change will thus be peaceably and 
gradually effected; there will be no struggle, no mutual exasperation; 
the natives will have independence, after first learning how to make 
good use of it; and wc shall exchange profitable subjects for still 
more profitable allies. . . . Trained by us to happiness and indepen- 
dence, and endowed with our learning and political institutions, 
India will remain the proudest monument of British benevolence; 
and we shall long continue to reap, in the affectionate attachment of 
the people, and in a great commercial intercourse with their splendid 
country, tlie fruit of that liberal and enlightened policy which 
suggested to us this line of conduct’ [11]. 

Though there is the ring of arrogance in the statements of the 
liberal reformers, it is a mistake to think of them as hard and 
calculating men. They were not - for they were genuinely convinced 

♦My italics. - A/.E. 



that the transformation of India would be as good for Indians as 
it would be for themselves. Because their ideas of reform (and the 
consequences of these ideas) coincided with the self-interest of 
Britain’s merchants and rulers, the reformers’ moral view has often 
been dismissed as hypocrisy, as exploitation hidden behind humbug. 
But they saw no conflict between real altruism and a desire for 
commercial profit, for they did not place commerce and industry 
in a separate compartment. They viewed economics as they are 
viewed today, as a fundamental and indivisible part of the total 
structure of human happiness. 

The theorists of 1835 were, however, unduly optimistic. They 
thought that, by converting the top levels of Indian society, they 
would in time convert the masses. In this they were sadly mistaken, 
for the desire so powerfully expressed by a certain section of Indian 
society for the boons of English education was by no means altruistic. 
The theorists thought they were creating missionaries of a new 
civilization when in fact they were stabilizing the existence of a 
new class. 

In the early years at least, the reformers had some justification for 
optimism. Many thousands of Indians wanted to be enrolled in the 
new schools. The Calcutta School Book Society sold over thirty 
thousand books in English in two years. English education at 
government institutions was available to all without religious or 
caste distinction, though among Hindus, not unnaturally, it was the 
Brahmin caste who took most advantage of it. Muslims did not 
respond to the new education with any enthusiasm. In fact, a vigorous 
protest was signed by eight thousand Calcutta Muslims when 
English was made the official language of government. Although an 
English-language class had been established in the Calcutta Madrasa 
as early as 1826, only two students passed the junior scholarship 
examination during the next twenty-five years. It was only after the 
Mutiny of 1857 that the Muslims became aware of the advantages 
they had let slip. 

The greatest desire for English education was to be found in 
Bengal - and even then, it existed only in what might be called 
Bengal proper. Elsewhere in India, there was considerable opposition 
to the use of English as the medium of instruction. In Bihar, 
administratively a part of the Bengal Presidency, there was powerful 


resistance from Muslim landlords, and as late as November 1858 
the Patna ofEce of the inspector of schools was known as ‘the 
devil’s counting-house’ [12]. In the Bombay Presidency, there was 
little demand for English education, and by 1850 there were only 
ten government-aided or government schools with a total of about 
two thousand pupils. The Madras Presidency was even more 
backward; by 1854 it had only three government or aided institu- 
tions. However, it was estimated that there were about thirty 
thousand pupils in establishments run by missionaries in India, 
which received no financial assistance from the government. 
According to statistics prepared for a report to the House of 
Commons, a total of 17,360 pupils was being educated at govern- 
ment expense in all parts of the British dominions in India on 30 
April 1845. Of these, 13,699 were Hindus, 1,636 Muslims, and 236 
Christians [13]. 

In Bengal, government policy was to establish cither an English 
or what was called an Anglo-Vernacular school - i.e. a school which 
used both English and the local language - at the headquarters of 
each administrative district. The best of these schools were given 
college status, and were linked with lower schools by a system of 
scholarships. Higher education was available at the Hindu College 
at Calcutta, which was finally taken over by the govemment in 
1854 and renamed Presidency College. The standard of examinations 
was high. It required ‘a critical acquaintance with the works of 
Bacon, Johnson, Milton and Shakespeare, a knowledge of ancient 
and modern history, and of the higher branches of mathematical 
science, some insight into the elements of natural history, and the 
principles of moral pliilosophy and political economy, together with 
considerable facility of composition, and the power of writing in 
fluent and idiomatic language an impromptu essay on any given 
subject of history, moral or political economy* [14], In the years 
1845-49, only thirty-six students passed the examinations. Mission 
and privately-owned colleges complained that the government 
was deliberately discriminating against them, because it appeared 
that only students at government colleges could reach the required 
standard and therefore had an undue advantage when it came to 
the award of appointments in the government service. 

The government did not entirely neglect vernacular education 




in Bengal, but an experiment in 1844 when loi native-language 
schools were established proved a failure, almost entirely because - 
though local inhabitants were often willing to support a traditional 
school themselves - they expected the government to give them an 
English one. The situation in Bombay was very different. There, 
the board of education established in 1840, had concentrated its 
efforts on establishing vernacular schools in every village of more 
than two thousand inhabitants, on condition that the people bore a 
share of the cost. By 1842, there were 120 such schools with about 
seven thousand pupils. The Madras government preferred to leave 
such activity largely in the hands of missionaries. 

In the North-Western Provinces (created 1843), however, 
James Thomason, who was lieutenant-governor 1843-53, laid the 
foundations of a system of vernacular education which was to have 
some influence on the government’s future policy. In effect, 
Thomason restated the paternalist position as opposed to the 
diffusionist. Where the anglicizers hoped to create an English- 
educated middle class, the paternalists looked towards what they 
conceived to be the general welfare of the masses. They, the 
paternalists maintained, stood in no need of ‘European civilization’ 
(which did not seem to be reaching them, anyway). What the 
peasant needed was a standard of literacy advanced enough for him 
to be able to understand village land records. He would thus have 
a weapon with which to defend himself against the moneylender, 
the landlord, and the lawyer, who - because they could read while 
the peasant could not - waxed fat upon his ignorance. Thomason’s 
experiment was, however, on a small scale, and by 1853 only about 
one in three hundred of the population of the North-Westeni 
Provinces had received even the minimal education given in the 
rural schools. Elsewhere in the country, a report of 1856 recorded, 
‘a school, either Government o- Missionary is as rare as a lighthouse 
on our coast . . . three or four schools exist among three or four 
millions of people’ [15], 

In Sir Charles Wood’s Educational Despatch of 1854, both 
liberal and paternalist strands were woven together into the proposed 
fabric of a complete system of education for India. Any' really 
complete system was, of course, completely outside the financial 
resources of the government. Wood therefore proposed a grant-in- 



aid system, so that private institutions could take over the burden of 
higher education and release government funds for the education of 
the predominantly rural masses. Essentially, this was no more than 
a pious hope. The government’s main aim was still to be the 
extension of English education, and it was proposed to establish 
universities in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The purpose of 
education was the same - to produce a high standard of government 
servant, and to increase commercial potential. The advancement of 
European knowledge, wrote Wood, ‘will teach the natives of India 
the marvellous results of the employment of labour and capital, 
rouse them to emulate us in the development of the vast resources 
of their country, guide diem in their efforts and gradually, but 
certainly, confer upon them all the advantages which accompany 
the healthy increase of wealth and commerce; and, at the same 
time, secure, to as a larger and more certain supply of many articles 
necessary for our manufactures and extensively consumed by all 
classes of our population, as well as an almost inexhaustible demand 
for the produce of British labour’ [i6]. 

The matter of grants-in-aid to private institutions, which would 
include those run by missionaries, raised some doubts because of 
the possibility of political repercussions. Even men who had no 
particular liking for the type of Indian produced by a purely English 
literary education did not anticipate trouble from that source; their 
interests lay with the British. The real danger, if there was one, 
would come from those traditionalists wlio were offended by the 
reforming activities of the government. One distinguished British 
official regarded grants-in-aid to missionary schools as a dangerous 
breach in the government’s altitude of religious neutrality, but he 
could mobilize no opinion on his side until after the traditionalist 
uprising of the Mutiny. 

The leaven of English education was, in fact, working amongst 
the Indian middle classes,* though it was not yet to produce an 
overt threat to British dominion. Among the English-educated 
classes, a spirit of nationalism was slowly growing. There is symbolic 
significance in the fact that modern India’s first three universities 
were founded in the year the Indian Mutiny broke out. 

*Thc education of women, under both the Company and the Crown, is dealt 
with on pages 253 ff. 

I 2 I 



Extracts from Macaulay’s Minute on Education 1835 

We have a fund to be employed as government shall direct for the 
intellectual improvement of the people of this country. The simple 
question is, what is the most useful way of employing it? 

All parties seem to be agreed on one point, that tlie dialects 
commonly spoken among the natives of this part of India contain 
neither literary or scientific information, and arc, moreover so poor 
and rude that, until they arc enriched from some other quarter, it will 
not be easy to translate any valuable work into them. It seems to be 
admitted on all sides that the intellectual improvement of those 
classes of the people who have the means of pursuing higher studies 
can at present be cffecced only by means of some language not 
vernacular amongst them. 

what, then, shall that language be? One half of the Committee 
maintain that it should be the English. The other half strongly 
recommend the Arabic and Sanskrit. The whole question seems 
to me to be, which language is the best worth knowing? 

I have no knowledge of cither Sanskrit or Arabic. - But I have 
done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have 
read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanskrit works. 
I have conversed both here and at home with men distinguished b) 
their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the 
Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. 
I have never found one among them who could deny that a single 
shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native 
literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Wes- 
tern literature is, indeed, fully admitted by those meriibers of the 
Committee who support the Oriental plan of education. 

It will hardly be disputed, I suppose, that the department of 
literature in which the Eastern writers stand highest is poetry. And 
I certainly never met with any Orientalist who ventured to maintain 
that the Arabic and Sanskrit poetry could be compared to that of 
the great European nations. But, when we pass from works of 
imagination to works in which facts arc recorded and general 
principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes 
absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say. 



that all the historical information which has been collected from all 
the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what 
may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory 
schools in England. In every branch of physical or moral philosophy 
the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same. 

How, then, stands the case? We have to educate a people who 
cannot at present be educated by means of their mother-tongue. We 
must teach them some foreign language. The claims of our own 
language it is hardly necessary to recapitulate. It stands pre-eminent 
even among the languages of the West. It abounds with works of 
imagination not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed 
to us; with models of every species of eloquence; with historical 
compositions, which, considered merely as narratives, have seldom 
been surpassed, and which, considered as vehicles of ethical and 
political instruction, have never been equalled; with just and lively 
representations of human life and human nature; with the most 
profound speculations on metaphysics, morals, government, juris- 
prudence, and trade; with full and correct information respecting 
every experimental science which tends to preserve the health, to 
increase the comfort, or to expand the intellect of man. Whoever 
knows that language, has ready access to all the vast intellectual 
wealth, which all the wisest nations of the earth have created and 
hoarded in the course of ninety generations. It may safely be said 
that the literature now extant in that language is of far greater value 
than all the literature which three hundred years ago was extant in 
all the languages of the world together. Nor is this all. In India, 
English is the language spoken by the ruling class. It is spoken by the 
higher class of natives at the seats of government. It is likely to 
become the language of commerce throughout the seas of the East. 
It is the language of two great European communities which arc 
rising, the one in the south of Africa, the other in Australasia; 
communities which arc every year becoming more important, and 
more closely coniucted with our Indian Empire. Whether we look 
at the intrinsic value of our literature, or at the particular situation 
of this country, we shall sec the strongest reason to think that, of 
all foreign tongues, the English tongue is that which would be 
the most useful to our native subjects. 

The question now before us is simply whether, when if is in our 



power to teach this language, we shall teach languages in which, by 
universal confession, there arc no books on any subject which 
deserve to be compared to our own; whether, when we can teach 
European stience, we shall teach systems which, by universal 
confession,* whenev'^r they differ from those of Europe, difier for 
the worse; and whether, when we can patronize sound Philosophy 
and true History, we shall countenance, at the public expense, 
medical doctrines which would disgrace an English farrier - Astro- 
nomy, which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding- 
school - History, abounding with kings thirty feet high, and reigns 
thirty thousand years long - and Geography, made up of seas of 
treacle and seas of butter. 

It is said that we ought to secure the co-operation of the native 
public, and that wc can do this only by teaching Sanskrit and 

I can by no means admit that, when a nation of high intellectual 
attainments undertakes to superintend the education of a nation 
comparatively ignorant, the learners are absolutely to prescribe 
the course which is taken by the teachers. It is not necessary, however, 
to say anything on this subject. For it is proved by unanswerable 
evidence that we arc not at present securing the co-operation of the 
natives. It would be bad enough to consult their intellectual taste at 
the expense of their intellectual health. But wc are consulting 
neither - we are withholding from them the learning for which 
they are craving; we arc forcing on them the mock-learning which 
they nauseate. 

This is* proved by the fact that wc are forced to pay our Arabic 
and Sanskrit students, while those who learn English are willing 
to pay us. All the declamation in the world about the love and 
reverence of the natives for their sacred dialects will never, in the 
mind of any impartial person, outweigh the undisputed fact, that 
we cannot find, in all our vast Empire, a single student who will 
let us teach him those dialects unless wc will pay him. 

It is said that the Sanskrit and Arabic are the languages in which the 
sacred books of a hundred millions of people are written, and that 
they are, on that account, entitled to peculiar encouragement. 
Assuredly it is the duty of the British government in India to be not 


only tolerant, but neutral on all religious questions. But to encourage 
the study of a literature admitted to be of small intrinsic value only 
because that literature inculcates the most serious errors on the most 
important subjects, is a course hardly reconcilable with reason, with 
morality, or even with that very neutrality which ought, as we all 
agree, to be sacredly preserved. It is confessed that a language is barren 
of useful knowledge. We are told to teach it because it is fruitful 
of monstrous superstitions. We are to teach false history, false 
astronomy, false medicine, because we find them in company with a 
false religion. We abstain, and I trust shall always abstain, from giving 
any public encouragement to those who are engaged in the work of 
converting natives to Christianity. And, while we act thus, can we 
reasonably and decently bribe men out of the revenues of the State to 
waste their youth in learning how they are to purify themselves after 
touching an ass, or what text of the Vedas they are to repeat to 
expiate the crime of killing a goat? 

It is taken for granted by the advocates of Oriental learning that no 
native of this country can possibly attain more than a mere smattering 
of English. They do not attempt to prove this: but they perpetually 
insinuate it. They designate the education which their opponents 
recommend as a mere spelling-book education. They assume it as 
undeniable, that the question is between a profound knowledge of 
Hindoo and Arabian literature and science on the one side, and a 
superficial knowledge of the rudiments of English on the other. This 
is not merely an assumption, but an assumption contrary to all reason 
and experience. We know that foreigners of all nations do learn our 
language sufficiently to have access to all the most abstruse knowledge 
which it contains, sufficiently to relish even the more delicate graces 
of our most idiomatic writers. There are in this very town natives 
who are quite competent to discuss political or scientific questions 
with fluency and precision in the English language. I have heard the 
very question on which I am now writing discussed by native 
gentlemen with a liberality and an intelligence which would do credit 
to any member of the Committee of Public Instruction. Indeed it is 
unusual to find, even in the literary circles of the Continent, any 
foreigner who can express himself in English with so much facility 
and correctness as we find in many Hindoos.Nobody, I suppose, will 
contend that English is so difficult to a Hindoo as Greek to an 



Englishman. Yet an intelligent English youth, in a much smaller 
number of years than our unfortunate pupils pass at the Sanskrit 
college, becomes able to read, to enjoy, and even to imitate, not 
unhappily, the composition of the best Greek authors. Less than half 
the time which enables an English youth to read Herodotus and 
Sophocles ought to enable a Hindoo to read Hume and Milton. 

To sum up what I have said: I think it is clear that we are free to 
employ our funds as we choose; that we ought to employ them in 
teaching what is best worth knowing; that English is better worth 
knowing than Sanskrit or Arabic; that the natives are desirous to be 
taught English, and are not desirous to be taught Sanskrit or Arabic; 
that neither as the languages of law, nor as the languages of religion, 
have the Sanskrit and Arabic any peculiar claim to our encourage- 
ment; that it is possible to make natives of this country thoroughly 
good English scholars, and that to this end our efforts ought to be di- 
rected. In one point 1 fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general 
views I am opposed. I feel, with them, that it is impossible for us, with 
our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. Wc 
must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters 
between us and the millions whom wc govern; a class of persons, 
Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in 
morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the ver- 
nacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of 
science borrowed from the Wcsteni nomenclature, and to render 
them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great 
mass of the population. 

I would strictly respect all existing interests. I would deal even 
generously with all individuals who have had fair reason to expect a 
pecuniary provision. But I would strike at the root of the bad system 
which has hitherto been fostered by us. I would at once stop the 
printing of Arabic and Sanskrit books; I would abolish the Madrassa 
and the Sanskrit college at Calcutta. Benares is the great scat of 
Brahmanical learning; Delhi, of Arabic learning. If wc retain the 
Sanskrit college at Benares and the Mahomedan college at Delhi, we 
do enough, and much more than enough in my opinion, for the 
Eastern languages. If the Benares and Delhi colleges should be 
retained, I would at least recommend that no stipend shall be given to 
any students who may hereafter repair thither, but that the people 



shall be left to make their own choice between the rival systems of 
education without being bribed by us to learn what they have no 
desire to know. The funds which thus be placed at our disposal 
would enable us to give larger encouragement to the Hindoo college 
at Calcutta, and to establish in the principal cities throughout the 
Presidencies of Fort William and Agra schools in which the English 
language might be well and thoroughly taught. 

I believe that the present system tends, not to accelerate the pro- 
gress of truth, but to delay the natural death of expiring errors. I 
conceive that we have at present no right to the respectable name of 
a Board of Public Instruction. We arc a Board for wasting public 
money, for printing books which arc less value than the paper on 
which they are printed was while it was blank; for giving artificial 
encouragement to absurd history, absurd metaphysics, absurd 
physics, absurd theology; for raising up a breed of scholars who find 
their scholarship an encumbrance and a blemish, who live on the 
public while they are receiving their education, and whose education 
is so utterly useless to them that, when they have received it, they 
must either starve or live on the public all the rest of their lives. 
Entertaining these opinions, I am naturally desirous to decline all 
share in the responsibility of a body which, unless it alters its whole 
mode of proceeding, I must consider not merely as useless, but as 
positively noxious. 


Rcli(lioti and Philosophy 

In the case of India’s religions, the impact of the West was confined 
to a minority of thinkers and philosophers. The religion of the masses 
whether Hindu or Muslim, remained luitouched except around the 
fringes of its social expression. Generally speaking, this only tended 
to reinforce traditional religious attitudes and acceptance. 

On the intellectual level, however. Western ideas - and even the 
actions of the British government - supplied a means for reinforcing 
Hinduism and, to a much lesser extent, Islam. The challenge posed by 
Christianity, as well as the ethical content of its teaching, had pro- 




found effects. So, too, did the rediscovery and translation of the 
Sanskrit classics by European orientalists, a byproduct of the 
administration’s desire to know more about the customary law of the 
Hindus (see page 72 ff). 

The principal^movements designed to revivify and purify Hindu- 
ism were initiated by reformers active in more practical fields. All 
reaffirmed the validity of Hinduism but demanded changes in its 
social expression so that it could be made more responsive to modern 
needs. All such movements therefore had social and political aspects 
which are dealt with separately (in the sections on Nationalism, 
pages 139 and 272 ffi). These aspects had important consequences for 
many people. The purely religious innovations, however, did not, 
primarily because tlieir influence was mainly intellectual. 

The first of the modernizers of Hinduism was that protean figure, 
Ram Mohim Roy (1772-1833). In liis revulsion at the superstitions 
which had drowned the original beliefs of Hinduism, Ram Mohun 
turned to other religions, including Islam, Buddhism and Chris- 
tianity, for aid. He did not accept any of these faiths. He had a 
particular hatred for idolatry, and could not accept the divinity of 
Christ, however impressed he might be by his ethical teaching. 
Searching for the basis of an ethical monotheism, he found it in 
some of the classical Hindu scriptures, and particularly in the Upanis- 
hads which he translated into Bengali. 

Ram Mohun made no attempt to think out a religious system. His 
view of theism was very much that of the eighteenth-century 
European rationalist, and he found it expressed in the Upatiishads 
where Brahma, the Supreme Being, exists outside thought and 
speech and cannot be reached either through prayer or meditation. 
This was a very intcllcctualized approach, as can be seen in a passage 
from his Religious Instructions founded on Sacred Authorities. 

QUESTION : W hat is meant by worship ? 

answer: Worship implies the act of one with a view to please 
another; but when applied to the Supreme Being, it signifles a 
contemplation of his attributes. 

QUESTION : In what manner is this worship to be performed?. 
answer; By bearing in mind that the Author and Governor of this, 
visible universe is the Supreme Being, and comparing this idea with 



the sacred writings and with reason. In this worship it is indispensably 
necessary to use exertions to subdue the senses, and to read such 
passages as direct attention to the Supreme Spirit. . . . I’he benefits 
which we continually receive from fire, from air, and from the sun, 
likewise from the various productions of the earth, such as the 
different kinds of grain, drugs, fruit and vegetables, all are dependent 
on him: and by considering and reasoning on the terms expressive of 
such ideas, the meaning itself is firmly fixed in the mind [ 1 ]. 

The movement founded by Ram Mohun was originally called the 
Brahma Sabha, but the name was changed to Brahmo Samaj. At the 
beginning, there was no membership and no fixed creed, and the 
association’s meetings were open to all. In 1830, the Samaj, wliich 
had first met in a private house in Calcutta in Aiu.ust 1828, was able to 
begin erecting its own building. It was opened two years later. The 
Samaj had the support of a number of wealthy men, the most 
important of whom was Dwarkanath Tagore, one of India’s first 
Western-style capitalists. The trust deed of the Samaj’s temple forms 
a precis of the religious ideas of Ram Mohun and his supporters. The 
temple was to be used ‘as a place of public meeting of all sorts and 
descriptions of people without distinction as shall behave and 
conduct themselves in an orderly sober religious and devout manner 
for the worship and adoration of the Eternal Unsearchable and 
Immutable Being who is the Author and Preserver of the Universe 
but not under or by any other name designation or title peculiarly 
used for and applied to any particular Being or Beings by any man or 
set of men whatsoever and that no graven image statue or sculpture 
carving painting picture portrait or the likeness of anything shall be 
admitted within the said building . . . and that no sacrifice . . . shall 
ever be permitted therein and that no animal or living creature shall 
within or on the said premises be deprived of life . . . and that in 
conducting the said worship and adoration no object animate or 
inanimate that has been or is . . . recognised as an object of worship 
by any man or set of men shall be reviled or slightingly or con- 
temptuously spoken of . . . and that no sermon preaching discourse 
prayer or hymn be delivered made or used in such worship but such 
as have a tendency to the promotion of the contemplation of the 
Author and Preserver of the Universe to the promotion of charity 



morality piety benevolence virtue and the strengthening the bonds of 
union between men of all religious persuasions and creeds’ [2]. 

Despite the dryness of Ram Mohun’s approach, he did offer 
Hindus who were inspired by Christian teaching and revolted by 
their own religion in its popular form a way of accepting that part of 
Christianity which had most appeal - its humanitarian message - 
without being converted to Christianity. This in itself was a positive 
achievement, but the movement founded by Ram Mohun did not 
have many adherents until in 1843 Dwarkanath Tagore’s son, De- 
bendranath (1817-1905), merged an association of his own with it and 
gave the Samaj a new sense of purpose. 

In 1838, Debendranath had gone through a profound religious 
experience. In the following year, he founded the Tattvabodhani 
Sabha (truth-teaching society) which met weekly for religious 
discussions. As his father’s heir, Debendranath would have inherited 
his wealth and business ventures. But he was drawn into the heart of 
Hinduism and away from the material world. ‘My father was in 
England’, he wrote in his Autobiography (page 41). ‘The task of 
managing his various affairs devolved upon me. But I was not able to 
attend to any business matters properly. My subordinates used to do 
all the work, I was only concerned with the Vedas, the Vedanta, 
religion, God, and the ultimate goal of life. I was not even able to 
stay quietly in the house. My spirit of renunciation became deeper 
under all this stress of work. I felt no inclination to become the 
owner of all this wealth. To renounce everything and wander about 
alone, this was the desire that reigned in my heart.’ Nevertheless, 
there was need for action of some sort. 

Debendranath continued Ram Mohun’s work, opposing both the 
idolatry of popular Hinduism and the attempts of Christian miss- 
ionaries at conversion. A Scottish missionary, Alexander Duff, had 
arrived in Calcutta in 1830, and under his influence a number of 
Hindus educated at mission schools were turning to Christianirv, 
partly because Duff maintained that the highest form of education 
was a Christian education. The combination of a daily scripture 
lesson with Western intellectual and scientific training convinced 
many young Hindus that they could not have one without the other. 
Debendranath called a meeting in Calcutta at which funds were 
raised to found a school which did not have Christian teaching built 



into the curriculum. But Debendranath was fundamentally a quictist, 
not a man of action. In his attempt to set monotheism firmly into the 
frame of classical Hinduism, he tried to find authority in the Vedas. 
Unable to do so, he fell back on intuition. He arranged a scries of 
extracts from the Hindu scriptures, mainly from the Upanishads, for 
use in public and private devotions. Later, too, he produced a set of 
ceremonies to replace the idolatrous ones used in Hindu homes on 
such occasions as births and marriages. 

Outside Bengal, similar fears existed over the threat to the educated 
classes posed by Cliristian conversion, though they were not felt 
quite so intensely. A number of Hindus were beginning to re- 
examine their religion, although not in order to assimilate Western 
ideas, to create a synthesis, or even to supply a retreat for intellectuals. 
European inHiicnces were to have little effect upon them. But they 
too reflected - sometimes overtly, though more often subtly - the 
Indian reaction to the general pressure of Western ideas and mis- 
sionary activity. 

The frontal attack on Hinduism had begun in the Company’s 
dominions after the country was opened to missionaries by the 
Charter Act of 1813. The aim was to convert the upper castes 
through education, aiid it was to this threat that the Brahmo Samaj 
responded. Elsewhere, particularly in the south where Christian 
missionaries - mainly Danish and German - had been active since the 
early eighteenth century, missionary activity had its main impact on 
the lower castes. By 1 851, there were 90,000 Protestant Christians in 
India, and about 200,000 of all denominations, including Catholic 
families of long standing who had been converted by the Portuguese. 

Early Lutheran and Anglican missionaries had accepted the 
Catholic view that caste was a secular and not a religious institution, 
but this attitude changed after 1833. Christian activities carried with 
them not only Christian teaching but the superficialities of European 
culture - European clothes, new names, new food habits. It seemed as 
if what made a Christian was wearing a hat, eating beef, and drinking 
liquor. The outward Europeanization of Christian converts con- 
tributed much to the belief that the activities of the government (a 
Christian government, whatever it might say) were designed to 
remake the Hindu personality in a European image. 

The two basic Hindu reactions - religious reform, in response to 



the ethical content of Western religious and political ideas, and 
religious revivalism, as a rejection of Europeanization - owed much 
to missionary activities. 

The effect of Western ideas and Christian mission work on Islam 
was comparatively slight. Hinduism is essentially tolerant, holding to 
no rigid dogma, but Islam was already monotheistic and possessed a 
sacred book containing ultimate statements of belief and action. 
Muslims, too, had the sense of a nationalist past ended by British 
conquest. It was a past which they, unlike the Hindus, had no need 
to rediscover, only to preserve. When Hindus accepted Western 
education, this merely reinforced Muslims in their conviction that 
they should remain isolated from it. It was only after the Mutiny - 
which opened the eyes of some Muslims to how dangerous the 
rejection of Western ideas might be to their community - that the 
Muslim religious revival began. 

Art and Architecture 

Throughout the whole period of the Company's connexion with 
India, artists continued to paint in traditional styles. Many of them 
lived and worked in the princely states, outside the sphere of direct 
British influence. Until 1858, large areas of India remained remete 
from Europeans and European ideas, and traditionalist schools of 
painting flourished under the patronage of rajas and princes. In such 
places as Rajasthan and the hill states known today as Himachal 
Pradesh new styles were developed based firmly on tradition. In 
British India, too, new styles emerged in response to new patronage 
- that of the British. Though these were rooted in tradition, they 
reflected British rather than Indian taste. The reaction of the British 
to Indian painting was one of highly-qualified pleasure. They 
admired the delicacy of the workmanship, but regretted the absence 
of perspective, the lack of light and shade. 

The coastal towns in which the British first established themselves 
were not centres of artistic activity. These were mainly inland, at the 
princely courts. But the collapse of the Mughal empire destroyed 
many such courts and put the court painters out of wprk. The 
anarchy of the late eighteenth century destroyed much of the luxe 
privee which the artist not only contributed to but drew upon for his 
inspiration. Deprived of the patronage of princes, artists moved 


towards the coastal towns in the hope that the British might be 
interested in their work. 

The painters’ chances of success depended on two things - that the 
British should have some reason for employing them, and that the 
artists should be willing to adapt their technique to the requirements 
of new patrons. Quite early in the British connexion, artists were 
employed as house decorators. They were soon to be found, too, on 
surveyors* staffs, drawing maps and views. But perhaps the two most 
important reasons for the growth of British patronage were that 
Indian portrait miniatures were cheap compared with the prices 
charged by European artists in India and that the British wanted 
‘picture postcards* of exotic festivals and ceremonies to send to 
friends or preserve in albums. 

The first development of an art designed to suit British taste seems 
to have begun at Murshidabad, the former capital of Bengal. The 
Nawabs of Bengal had employed local artists who usually painted in 
the Mughal imperial style. As the power of the Nawabs declined 
after 1757 and the British population in Murshidabad increased, 
artists turned to the latter for employment. They produced portrait 
miniatures on paper and - much more exotic - paintings on thin 
sheets of clear mica. From about the middle of the 1770s on, mica 
painting was extremely popular with the British. The demand for 
sets showing local festivals was so high that patterns for producing 
them at greater speed were prepared. This ‘industry* seems to have 
flourished until about 1850, by which time the number of British 
residents in Murshidabad had considerably decreased. 

Murshidabad painting, though it obviously reflected British 
taste, remained essentially Indian in character. The painters of Patna 
(in present-day Bihar), however, consciously adapted British 
techniques. They produced sets of ‘occupations’, a new subject for 
Indian painters. They developed perspective. They used water- 
colours. The paintings they produced have a great deal in common 
with the contemporary aquatints of Thomas and William Daniell 
(see page 44). The Patna school flourished under the patronage of 
local British residents and British visitors who passed through the 
city in appreciable numbers. Sir Charles D*Oyly - who was Opium 
Agent at Patna until 1833, and a competent artist and lithographer - 
encouraged at least one known artist, Jairam Das, and helped to 



familiarize other artists with European techniques. Some of D’Oyly’s 
own work was copied and included in sets of views produced by 
native artists. Mica painting, which was imported by artists from 
Murshidabad, became popular with the British and remained so until 
the late nineteenth century. Towards the 1870s, Patna painters were 
forced to rely more and more upon Indian customers, and their style 
of colouring changed from the sombre tones of English water- 
colours to the more vivid tints of traditional painting. By the 
beginning of the twentieth century, the trade in Patna paintings had 
almost disappeared. 

Wherever there was a British colony, there were usually artists to 
supply what the British wanted - picturesque mementoes of a 
picturesque country. Things were slightly different in Lucknow, 
however. Oudh, of which it was the capital, did not form part of the 
British dominions until 1856, and there were rich opportunities for 
Europeans at its corrupt court. Painters arrived in the wake of the 
adventurers, and many works by European artists were freely copied 
by Indians. The influence of the European (and mainly, in fact, 
Britisli) artists who were continually patronized by successive rulers 
of Oudh can be seen in the changing colours, from the brilliant 
richness of Mughal art to the pale delicacy of English water-colours. 

In Delhi, for long the capital of the imperial Mughals, the British 
found a flourishing traditional style and yielded to its appeal. They 
encouraged artists to produce copies of earlier Mughal works. But 
they also demanded picturesque views, understandably, since the 
Delhi area was full of the monuments of the past. About 1830, 
painting on ivory came into vogue, both for portraits and views. The 
coming of photography only increased the demand - at least for a 
time - and, in making copies of photographs, the artists to a large 
extent abandoned the somewhat rigid style they had foimerly 

In southern India, the beginnings of Indo-British art were centr'd 
on the town of Tanjore, where a group of Mughal-stylc painters 
from Hyderabad had settled about 1770. They brought with them a 
tradition peculiar to Hyderabad at that time, of painting subjects 
which appealed to Europeans - festivals, forms of transport,* and so on 
- in which there had been trade with the Dutch settlements on the 
west coast from the late seventeenth century. The style, however, had 



not been influenced by European tastes. The painters at Tanjore, 
though they derived their art from the Mughal tradition of 
Hyderabad (known as Deccani style), made certain changes, and these 
increased as British influence in Tanjore expanded. The raja, Serfaji, 
was partly responsible for this, as he had been educated by a Lutheran 
missionary in Madras and returned to Tanjore in 1798 with strong 
European tastes. In the new pictures, flat backgrounds disappeared, 
white and blue skies were broken by jagged clouds, and there was 
a receding foreground - all unmistakably European in origin. 

The two main and lasting effects of British patronage on Indian art 
were in technique - the use of water-colour instead of the tra- 
ditional tempera - and in subject matter, which broke away from 
court scenes and aristocratic portraits and began to represent 
ordinary people and ordinary life. 

In architecture, during the period of Company rule, the princely 
rulers and the ordinary people continued to use traditional Hindu and 
Mughal styles when they built their palaces and hovels. But the 
architecture of the British, first classical and then neo-Gothic, 
inevitably inspired imitation. Lucknow remains to this day a 
monument to the eclecticism of its rulers. Mughal and classical 
styles are mixed in a kind of Indian rococo. In fact, that astute 
observer, Bishop Hcber, thought Lucknow resembled Dresden, 
though its main thoroughfare reminded him of the High Street at 
Oxford. In the south, Serfaji of Tanjore built himself a palace in a 
mixture of European and Indian styles, while in the urban centres - 
notably Calcutta - the growing Indian middle classes demonstrated 
their Westernization by adorning their homes with Corinthian 
columns in the contemporaryTashion. 


The West influenced Indian literatures by means of two principal 
instruments, the printing press and English-language education. 

Before the arrival of the British, the anarchic state of the country 
had had its effect on indigenous literatures. Though a virile tradition 
of ballads, folksongs, adaptations of Sanskrit works, and so on, 
existed in the native languages of India, such intellectual works as 
were composed were written in Sanskrit or, in* the case of the 
Muslims, in Persian or Arabic. These languages were, to some extent, 



the linguae fraucae of the intellectuals. As the world of Western ideas 
was slowly opened to Indians, it became clear that neither the 
intellectual nor the vernacular languages of the country possessed a 
vocabulary suitable to express them. This was part of the reason why 
Indians demanded Western education in the English language. Not 
surprisingly, educated Indians acquired a deep interest in English 
literature as well as in Western science and Western political ideas. 

The first effect was to encourage Indians and, in particular, 
Bengalis, to write in English themselves. Ram Mohun Roy wrote an 
elegant and lucid English prose. Henry Derozio (see page 139) was 
strongly influenced in style by the English romantics, though his 
subject matter was distinctly Indian. Within a very short time in the 
nineteenth century, English came to be looked upon as a new lingua 
franca, the common speech of the educated throughout India. Much 
of what was written by Indians in English was prose, and mainly 
concerned with social and political matters. On the whole, creative 
writing in English was meretricious, as even among educated Indians 
there were few who could handle the English language with real 

The desire to imitate English models in an Indian language also 
first showed itself in Bengal. The introduction of printing freed 
poetry from the oral tradition and from religious or quasi-religious 
subject matter. This freedom from past forms encouraged experi- 
ment and, in the decades following 1830, there was considerable 
innovation and adaptation in verse form. Michael Madhusudan Dutt 
adapted blank verse and sonnet forms from Milton. In the work of 
the men who followed him, the influence of Byron and Scott is 
particularly marked, especially in their narrative poetry. 

Other vernaculars were very slowly influenced by English forms. 
Missionary activity resulted in the preparation of simple textbooks 
and translations of the Bible. The Baptist mission at Serampur, under 
the guidance ofWilliam Carey (1761-1834) produced a large number 
of grammars and translations, many of them by Carey himself, of 
some of the Sanskrit classics. The majority of the books translated^ 
however, were of European and, specifically, English origin. 
Bunyan's Pilgrim* s Progress and Aesop^s Fables were among the first. 
Most of the translations were no more than serviceable. Few could 
have been called works of art. But in any case, they were primarily 



designed for use in schools. Before Indian literatures could really be 
fertilized by Western ideas, those ideas had to be assimilated, and 
that could only result from the acquisition of English - the only key 
to major works of literature and ideas. Early translations were almost 
entirely the product of Christian missionary endeavour and were 
therefore largely confined to Christian works or to works purveying 
simple moral precepts. 

Outside Bengal, the first generation to assimilate and then to 
transfer English forms and ideas into creative (and non-imitative) ver- 
nacular literature did not really emerge before the end of Company 
rule. In Bengal itself, the main effect - except in the case of a few men 
like Madhusudan Dutt and Bihari Lai Chakravarti, who between 
them contributed new and essentially English rhythmic devices to 
Bengali poetry - was on prose writing. In the creative sense, that too 
was not to flower until after 1858. The real significance of the 
Company period was that it secularized literature and made available 
a wide range of subject matter which had previously been unknown 
in the literature of Bengal. In this process, the newspaper and 
periodical press played an extremely important role, especially in the 
dissemination of ideas. 

The first newspaper in India was published in Calcutta by James 
Hicky in 1780. This was the Bengal Gazette, and two years later it was 
suppressed by Warren Hastings. After this, the government’s 
attitude towards newspapers scarcely changed. It was contemptuous 
of newspapers and their editors and convinced of the need to keep 
them under tight government control. The English-language press 
was, of course, originally intended for British readers, and its qualities 
and vices were those of contemporary journalism in Britain. Many of 
the newspapers which appeared were, in fact, merely digests and 
reprints of British newspapers. Many of the English-language 
journals, too, resembled their British contemporaries by being highly 
critical of the government and government personalities. They did 
not hesitate to attack both in the most scurrilous language. 

In 1823, die government passed two regulations which securely 
gagged the press. The regulations were directed against English- 
language and British-owned newspapers; there were, at that time, 
only one or two Indian-language papers in existence. But it was, in 
fact, Indians who reacted positively against the new regulations. It 



was safer for them to do so than for a European, since one of the 
government's most frequently used weapons against English 
journalists was deportation - a weapon which could hardly be used 
against Indians. Nevertheless, the protest was made, inevitably (in 
the circumstances of the time) by Ram Mohun Roy. He and five 
other distinguished Bengalis, including Dwarkanath Tagore, failed in 
their appeal first to the Calcutta Supreme Court and then to the Privy 
Council in London, but it was the first demand made in India for 
liberty of the press, and it was made on sound European principles. 

Of the vernacular papers then in existence, one of the first had 
been founded by a Scrampur missionary, Joshua Marshman, in 1818. 
It began as a monthly, but proved so popular that it was decided to 
publish a weekly as well. The first issue of the Samachar Durpan 
(‘mirror of the news’) with Marshman as editor appeared on 23 May 
1818. The Samachar carried both Indian and foreign news. In 1829 it 
became bi-lingual, running English and Bengali in parallel columns. 
The paper survived a number of vicissitudes, only to disappear in 

It was only natural that Ram Mohun Roy, intent on disseminating 
Western ideas as part of his campaign for reform, should turn to the 
press as a vehicle. He did not se^ journalism merely as a process of 
collecting and commenting on news. Indeed, the Sambad Kaumudi 
(‘moon of intelligence’) - which he founded in December 1821 - 
expressed Ram Mohun’s liberal ideas so powerfully that one of the 
stalFleft in protest against his agitation for the abolition of suttee. The 
dissenting employee set up a rival paper. The success of another 
rival, the Samachar Chattdrika, forced the Sambad to close down in 
1822, but it was revived in the following year. Ram Mohun also 
established a paper in Persian, the Mirut-ul-Akhbar (‘mirror of news’), 
in 1822 and closed it down in protest at the press regulations of 1823. 

Bombay had its first weekly paper in Gujarati, the Moombaina 
Samachar (‘Bombay news’) in 1822, and this was followed by others. 
The first paper in Hindi, the Benares Akhbar, appeared in 1845. In 
south India, a monthly magazine in Tamil was started by mission- 
aries in Madras in 1831. Most of the papers and periodicals in 
existence in south India in 1 858 had, in fact, been founded by mission- 
aries and were primarily missionary in purpose. 

As well as making available a wide range of Western learning and 



ideas, the Indian-language periodical press had a profound and 
vitalizing effect on the use of Indian languages. The straightforward 
simple prose needed to express alien ideas with accuracy helped to 
replace the old, allusive, over-omainented literary lai^uage with a 
new, colloquial style. 


In the political field, India’s response to British rule followed two 
main lines, one Indian and revolutionary, and the other Western and 
gradualist. The first expressed the reactions of entrenched traditional 
classes - political, cultural and religious - to an alien conqueror. The 
second represented the assimilation of Western liberal ideas by new 
social classes which were themselves a product of Western economic, 
educational and administrative systems. 

The resistance of the traditional ruling elites culminated in the 
Mutiny of 1857, when an attempt was made to retrieve the old 
territorial jurisdiction lost in the course of British conquest. The 
British recognized the strength of traditionalist sentiment and the 
value of maintaining quasi-independent princely states, and therefore 
neutralized this brand of nationalism by giving it a place within the 
structure of the Indian empire and protecting it from change. Cul- 
tural and religious nationalism, however, could neither be neutralized 
nor protected from the impact of alien ideas. Towards the end of 
Company rule, a revulsion against Western ideas developed among 
certain sections of the middle classes and began to give a new 
political direction to cultural and religious nationalism. 

Bengal, the foundation province of the British Indian empire, was 
the epicentre of the earthquake of Western ideas. But the effect there 
was not to create Indian nationalism; it was to create Bengali national- 
ism. The first important figures were Henry Dcrozio (1809-31) and 
Ram Moliun Roy (1772-1833). 

Dcrozio was a Eurasian who had been reared as a Protestant 
Christian. When he was seventeen, he wrote some romantic poems 
which made him the talk of intellectual Calcutta, and two years later 
he became assistant headmaster of the Hindu college (see page 112). 
There, his expression in Indian terms of the patriotic sentiments 



and aspirations of his poetic masters - the English romantics, Byron 
and Shelley - gave him tremendous influence over the minds of 
young Bengalis. His views, essentially English in character, were 
expressed in English verse : 

Expanding like the petals of young flowers 
I watch the gentle opening of your minds, 

And the sweet loosening of the spell that binds 
Your intell^tual energies and powers, 

That stretch (like young birds in soft summer hours) 

Their wings, to try their strength. O, how the winds 
Of circumstances, and freshening April showers 
Of early knowledge, and unnumbered kinds 
Of new perceptions shed their influence; 

And how you worship truth’s omnipotence. 

What joyance rains upon me, when I see 
Fame in the mirror of futuritv. 

Weaving the chaplets you have yet to gain. 

Ah ! then I feel I have not lived in vain. 

Your hand is on the helm - guide on, young men, 

The bark that’s freighted with your country’s doom. 

Your glories are but budding; they shall bloom 

Like fabled amaranths Elysian, when 

The shore is won, even now w ithin your ken, 

And when your torch shall dissipate the gloom 
That long has made your country but a tomb, 

Or worse than tomb, the priest’s, the tyrant’s den. 

Guide on, young men; your course is well begun ; 

Hearts that arc tuned to holiest harmony 
With all that e’en in thought is good, must be 
Best formed for deeds like those which shall be done 
But you hereafter till your guerdon’s won 
And that which now is hope becomes reality. 

Sonnet to the Pupils of the Hindu College 

Under Derozio’s influence, Bengali middle-class youth studied 
Francis Bacon, Hume, and Tom Paine. The latter’s Age of Reason - a 
hundred copies of which had been advertised for sale by a Calcutta 



bookseller - was soon the subject of a flourishing black market and 
copies were changing hands at five times the original price. Part of the 
book was later reprinted in a Bengali-language magazine. 

In 1828, Derozio founded the Academic Association for discussion 
of advanced social and political ideas. The subjects considered 
included ‘free will, free ordination, fate, faith, the sacredness of truth, 
the high duty of cultivating virtue, the meanness of vice, the nobility 
of patriotism, the attributes of God, and the arguments for and 
against the existence of the Deity as these have been set forth by 
Hume on the one side, and Reid, Dugald Stewart and Brown on the 
other, the hollowness of idolatry and the shams of the priesthood’ 

The numbers of students who had access to, and discussed Western 
social and political ideas were extremely small. In 1828, there were 
only 436 students on the rolls of the Hindu College - but they formed 
a seminal minority. They were almost entirely Western in their 
outlook, so much so that the Calcutta newspaper. The Englishman, 
reported in May 1836 of former students of the Hindu College that 
‘in matters of politics, they arc all radicals, and arc followers of 
Benthamite principles. The very word Tory is a sort of ignominy 
among them. They think that toleration ought to be practised by 
every government, and the best and surest way of making the people 
abandon their barbarous customs and rites is by diffusing education 
among them. With respect to the questions relating to Political 
Economy, they all belong to the school of Adam Smith. They arc 
clearly of opinion that the system of monoply, the restraints upon 
trade, and the international laws of many countries, do nothing but 
paralyse the efforts of the industry, impede the progress of agricul- 
ture and manufacture and prevent commerce from flowing in its 
natural course’. 

The students of Hindu College published a number of magazines, 
most of them concerned with political, social and scientific matters. 
The views they expressed were far in advance ot those of Ram 
Mohun Roy, who was not infrequently attacked in their pages. One 
of Ram Mohun’s projects was that a colony of Englishmen should be 
established in India. Tliis idea was ridiculed in a paper given at a 
meeting of the Hindu Literary Society. ‘No sooner did the benevo- 
lent inhabitants of Europe behold the sad condition of the natives’. 


the author of the paper remarked, ‘ than they immediately got to 
work to ameliorate and improve it. They introduced among them, 
runty gift, brandy and the other comforts of life, and it is astonishing to 
read how soon the poor savages learnt to estimate these blessings * [2]. 

Though the views of Ram Mohun Roy were liberal, he did not 
reject religion. On the contrary, he wanted to reform Hinduism 
rather than to reject it for a wholesale acceptance of Western ideas, as 
was the case with many students of Hindu College. He sought to 
demonstrate that the humanitarian ideas of Wes tern Christianity were 
already present in Hinduism, though they had become overlaid by 
superstition and corruption. He attacked Hindu idolatry as a later 
accretion to the simple and basically monotheistic concepts of the 
classical Hindu scriptures. Ram Mohun was, in fact, the first of the 
cultural and religious nationalists to see - though without rancour or 
racial arrogance - the humanitarian concepts of Western liberalism 
(even, indeed, the seeds of Western science) in Hindu civilization. 
Replying to an attack made on him by Christian missionaries because 
he rejected the divinity of Jesus, Ram Mohun stated his viewpoint. ‘If 
by the “ray of intelligence” for which the Christian says we arc in- 
debted to the English, he means the introduction of useful mechanical 
arts, I am ready to express my assent and also my gratitude; but 
with respect to scienccy literatnrCy or religioiiy I do not acknowledge 
that we arc placed under any obligation. For by a reference to History 
it may be proved that the world was indebted to our ancestors for the 
first dawn of knowledge, which sprang up in the East, and thanks to 
the Goddess of Wisdom, wc have still a philosophical and copious 
language of our own which distinguishes us from other nations who 
cannot express scientific or abstract ideas without borrowing the 
language of foreigners’ [j]. 

Nevertheless, Ram Mohun believed that India could benefit from 
Western ideas and was a firm supporter of English education. There 
was no hesitation, on his part, about accepting anything the British 
had to offer that was not present at a similar level of sophistication in 
Hindu society. This did not, however, entail accepting the ideological 
basis of Western society as well. 

Ram Mohun’s purpose was to reform f lindiiism, but the followers 
of Dcrozio rejected religion altogether. Both reactions were funda- 
mentally intellectual and lacking in popular appeal. Ram Mohun 



Roy and the organization he founded to put forward his ideas (the 
Brahmo Samaj) aimed at influencing the progress of social reform. 
The followers of Derozio were more concerned with political action. 
One sought to reinstate the identity and the dignity of the Hindu 
world. The other sought to identify as completely as possible with 
an alien civilization. 

These two strands in Bengali thought could not, however, remain 
entirely apart. When the time came for positive political action, they 
joined forces, often uneasily, united only in the desire to get rid of the 
British who denied them political power. But that still lay in the 

The first overt political move was an Indian demand for assoc- 
iation in the administration, which a number of declarations by the 
British had led the middle classes to believe was their right. The 
general preference of the government of India, in fact - whatever it 
might say to the contrary - was for the old governing classes. 
Macaulay had, however, stated that at some time in the very distant 
future a new anglicized class would demand and deserve self- 
government. This was rhetoric, not policy, but educated Indians - 
many of them afire with Western liberal ideas - chose to believe him. 

The first political organization was the Zamindari Association of 
Calcutta, founded in 1837. It was principally a body of landholders 
and the name was soon changed (in 1838) to Landholders’ Association. 
Its organizers were Raja Radhakant Deb Bahadur, a bitter opponent 
of Ram Mohun’s proposals for reform, and Prasanna Kumar Tagore, 
a renegade disciple of Ram Mohun. According to The Reformer (a 
journal published by former students of Hindu College) of 14 
November 1 837, ‘the only instruction with which the members of the 
provisional committee [set up to decide the rules and regulations of 
the Zamindari Association] were charged was that in preparing the 
rules, they should bear in mind that the Association was intended to 
embrace people of all descriptions, without reference to caste, country 
or complexion, and rejecting all exclusiveness, was to be based on the 
most universal and liberal principles; the only qualification to become 
its member being the possession of interest in the soil of the country’. 
The association was, in fact, a self-interest body designed to defend 
landlords against what were believed to be the pro-peasant tenden- 
cies of the government. 



The association received support from a number of Englishmen 
and from the British India Society which was founded in London in 
1839. They suggested that the name gave the impression of much too 
sectional an interest. In 1843, an entirely new organization, the 
Bengal British India Society, was founded. Its objects, according to 
the Bengal Hurkurii, were to be ‘the collection and dissemination of 
information relating to the actual condition of the people of British 
India, and the laws and institutions, and resources of the country, and 
to employ such other means of peaceable and lawful character as may 
appear calculated to secure the welfare, extend the just rights, and 
advance the interests of all classes of our fellow subjects’. The meeting 
at which the society was constituted pledged its loyalty to Britain and 
disclaimed any desire to ‘subvert legal authority or disturb the peace 
and well-being of society*. The Landholders* Association maintained 
its separate existence, but by 1851 both organizations were moribund. 

In that year, a new body, the British Indian Association was 
formed, partly to channel protest against legal discriminations and 
partly to make representations to the British government when the 
Company’s charter came up for renewal in 1853. The association 
professed 10 welcome all classes, but the subscription was so high 
that only the wealthier could afford it. The association was - and 
remained - an upper-class body representing powerful landholding 
and merchant interests. Branches were soon established in Madras, 
Poona and Bombay. The association memorialized the government 
on almost every conceivable subject, though it was fundamentally 
concerned with the removal of discriminatory tariffs and the 
admittance of Indians to the legislatures and the civil administration. 

At the first annual general meeting of the Bombay branch, one 
speaker made a prophetic speech. ‘The British Government*, he said, 
‘professes to educate the Natives to an equality with Europeans, an 
object worthy of the age and of Britain. But if Englishmen after 
educating the Natives to be their equals continue to treat them as 
their inferiors - if they deny the stimulus to honourable ambition, 
and show the Natives that there is a barrier over which superior 
Native merit and ambition can never hope to pass, and that these are 
considered traits which a Native can not hope to exhibit - 2^e they 
not in effect undoing all that they have done, unteaching the Native 
all that he has been taught, and pursuing a suicidal policy, which will 



inevitably array all the talent, honour and intelligence of the country 
ultimately in irreconcilable hostility to the ruling power’ [4]. 

These first political associations represented moderate and 
gradualist views, but by the end of Company rule there was a 
growing sense of frustration among the educated middle classes. The 
younger elements among the Western-educated were beginning to 
turn away from whole-hearted identification with Western ideas and 
ambitions, and the alienation from traditional society to which such 
identification inevitably led. They were moving towards a new sense 
of being Indian - or, more precisely, of being Hindu. 

It is important to remember that there was no real concept of an 
Indian nationalism in the geographic or ethnic sense. This was mainly 
because British dominion did not spread throughout India until just 
before the Mutiny. Linguistic and cultural differences, too, separated 
the various parts of the country from each other. Modem com- 
munications did not exist, and there was little exchange of ideas 
between the intelligentsia of the provinces of British India. When 
there was, its effect was confined to a minority of the urban middle 
classes in the presidency capitals. Bengali nationalism, however, n/as 
taking root, and so was a particularly Hindu nationalism. This was 
not unnatural; the majority of the Western-educated were in fact 
Hindus. The Muslims were basically indifferent to the West, and 
their indifference was reinforced not only by their religion but by the 
fact that they had been dispossessed from their rule by the British. 
Generally speaking, they lived withdrawn from the effects of 
Westernization, though this was to change after 1858. In pre-Mutiny 
Delhi, however, there was considerable interest in Western ideas, and 
a group of scholars set out to translate into Urdu something of the 
science and learning of the West. This brought some diffusion of 
liberal ideas, but the movement came to an end with the Mutiny. 

By the end of Company rule, the main attitudes nationalism was to 
take in India already existed. All were responses to Western in- 
fluences, and even those which appeared totally to reject Western 
ideas and values were motivated by them. All were attempts to 
declare some sort of identity, either in the conqueror’s terms or in 
those of indigenous religions and cultures. In a very real sense, the 
Mutiny cleared the decks, crystallized emotions, and laid down the 
order of battle. 



The Mutiny as the Meeting of 
Two Dying Systems 

The Mutiny as the Meeting of 
Two Dying Systems 

B asically, the revolt of 1857 originated in the reaction of a 
conservative, tradidon-Ioving section of Indian society to the 
modernizing zeal of their British conquerors. As the British 
consolidated their power in India, they also seemed to be intent on 
reforming Indian society both morally and politically. In creating a 
rational and efficient administration, they threatened much of the 
traditional order. Princes and landowners, the principal repres- 
entatives of that order, felt themselves under sentence of extinction. 

Under the governor-generalship of Lord Dalhousie, both the 
princes and landowners had felt the heavy hand of government. 
Dalhousie wished to remove as many feudal states as he could, 
leaving only a few of the larger ones nominally independent but 
actually under the control of the central government. The plan was 
laudable in many senses, for it was designed to lead to better govern- 
ment and a happier situation for the peasantry who, under their 
feudal princes, had no rights or protection against the whims of the 
ruler. Dalhousie first used his powers to annex states where there was 
no direct heir, refusing to accept the custom that a childless ruler had 
the right to adopt an heir. Satara, Jhansi, Nagpur, and a number of 
minor states were annexed. The kingdom of Oudh, which had been 
grossly misgoverned for many years, was also made a part of British 

Dalhousie’s second objective was to expropriate land from land- 
lords without ‘proper’ title to their estates. Some twenty thousand 
were confiscated in the Deccan alone. 

Because the government was a foreign government, and its agents 
foreign, too, with only a slight understanding of customary law and 
even of local languages, there were many cases of injustice which the 
government did little to remedy. The reforms were carried out 
ruthlessly, with little or no attempt to consider the feelings of those 
involved. It is little wonder that those who suffered were angry, or 



that those who expected to find themselves in the same position were 

Indians only had to look around them to sec the British interfering 
at every level of life. In the twenties and thirties of the nineteenth 
century, a number of reforms had been carried out. Suttee had been 
banned, infanticide suppressed, and a campaign mounted against the 
Thug gangs who robbed and murdered in the name of Kali. These 
warts on Hindu society had been regarded with horror by the 
British, who had also allowed themselves to view the Hindu religion 
as a barbaric, pagan creed, beneath contempt. Many officers in the 
Company’s army took this attitude and grasped every opportunity 
of trying to persuade their men to become Christian. 

Some of the sepoys felt that an attempt would be made to break 
their caste in such a way as to cut them off from their religion. 
Hinduism, unlike Christianity, is indivisibly part of the social order. 
Man’s place in society is carefully ordered by the mechanism of caste. 
Break a man’s caste, and not only is his place in society destroyed but 
he stands on the threshold of a damnation far worse than the 
Christian concept of hell. A Hindu believes that reincarnation 
continues until the highest caste - the Brahmin - is reached after the 
soul has returned many times and has suffered much. When a 
Brahmin dies, his reward is oblivion, the heaven of the Hindus. 
Many of the sepoys in the Company’s army were Brahmins and 
therefore felt that they had everything to lose from the Christianizing 
activities of the British. There had, in fact, been mutinies based on 
similar fears before 1857. 

In Vellore in south India, the sepoys had revolted in 1806 after 
being ordered to wear a new style of headdress, to trim their beards, 
and to give up wearing caste marks. This, they believed, was an 
attempt to make them Christians, The mutiny was brutally sup- 
pressed. In 1824, a sepoy regiment which had been ordered to Burma 
refused to move because it felt its caste was endangered by an official 
refusal to supply special transport for cooking pots; caste usage 
compelled each man to have his own set. Guns opened fire on the 
sepoys on the parade ground where they were assembled, and next 
morning six of the ringleaders were hanged, while hundreds were 
condemned to fourteen years’ hard labour on the public roads. Five 
more men were later executed and their bodies hung in chains as an 



example to their fellows. In 1852, another regiment refused to cross 
the sea to Burma. This time, however, the sepoys were simply 
marched away to another station. A number of other mutinies and 
near-mutinies had taken place, all with some basis of fear that the 
British were trying to break the sepoys’ caste and make them turn 

By the end of 1856, the whole of India - and particularly the north 
- was uneasy. Nearly every class had been shaken in some way by the 
reforms and political changes instituted by the British. Only the most 
Westernized Indians were unaffected by fear. The newly emerging 
middle class had no wish to preserve the old order unchanged, and 
during the Mutiny they remained actively loyal to the British. But 
the dispossessed had been awaiting their opportunity. Those princes 
who had lost the territories they felt to be rightly theirs, the king of 
Oudh, the last sad descendants of the Mughal emperors at the twilight 
court of Delhi - all were awaiting the opportunity to rise in rebellion. 
Their agents were active among the sepoys, playing upon their fears 
and exciting their apprehensions, recalling the tale that a hundred 
years after the battle of Plasscy would come the day that saw the end 
of British rule. The fuel was ready for the fire; all that was needed 
was a spark. The British themselves provided it. 

In 1857 h was decided to replace the old musket known as Brown 
Bess with the new Enfield rifle, which had a much longer range and 
infinitely greater accuracy. To load the new rifle entailed biting a 
greased cartridge. The sepoys believed, with some justification, that 
the grease was made from cow or pig fat - the first, from an animal 
sacred to the Hindus, and the second from an animal regarded as 
unclean by the Muslims. The Hindu sepoys saw this as yet another 
attempt to break their caste as a preliminary to making them all 
Christians. Slowly at first, but with increasing momentum, sepoy 
regiments refused to accept the new cartridges and finally 
broke into open mutiny. To them rallied the disaffected. At last the 
opportunity had come to make a stand against the British and, with 
the Bengal army at their backs, the disaffected seemed to have every 
chance of success. 

Essentially, the Mutiny which had been triggered by dissatis- 
faction in the Bengal army was a feudal reaction to the pressures of 
British dominion which had been felt at all levels of the community. 

F I5I 


Behind the rebels there temporarily coalesced a wide and con- 
flicting range of interests. There has been miich controversy - 
engendered in the main by Indian historians - about the ‘national’ 
character of the Mutiny. There was none. Among the feudal 
elements involved, there was merely a desire to return to things as 
they had been before the coming of the British. The sepoys rebelled 
in what they believed was self-defence. Not unnaturally, other 
elements took advantage of the breakdown of law and order. In some 
areas, there were distinctly Luddite overtones when mobs attacked 
and destroyed factories and machinery. This may well have been 
partly a product of class antagonisms, for there was a general 
tendency to attack those who had benefited from British rule - 
bankers, moneylenders, and the like, who were also merchants and 

One of the principal factors in the suppression of the Mutiny was 
the fact that most of the leading rebels were united only on one 
simple issue, the ejection of the British. When this seemed impossible 
to achieve, everything else fell to pieces. The sepoys fought on - not 
for any ideal, but because the British had made it quite clear to them 
that the chances of death if they surrendered were about as high as, if 
not higher than, they would be if they went on fighting. Most of the 
civilian leaders either disappeared, were killed in battle, or executed. 
The men who had taken impromptu advantage of the effective 
collapse of British rule faded into the background from which they 
had emerged. 

The Mutiny represents a divide in the history of British India. It 
was, in general terms, the violent meeting of two dying systems, of 
British India as a ‘country’ power - an essentially oriental govern- 
ment with strong European overtones - and of traditional India, 
trembling with unresolved and frequently unstated fears, obsessed 
with the past and unable or willing to accept the modernizing 
tendencies of the British. The Mutiny and the process of its suppres- 
sion created no gulf between the Indians and the British, for the 
reforms of the 1830s and the changing attitude of the administration 
had already succeeded in alienating the rulers from the mass of the 
ruled. But it did crystallize and reinforce the division by increasing 
the distrust of both sides. 



The Indian Empire 

1858 - jp47 

Historical Framework 

O NE of the results of the assumption of power by the Crown in 
1858 was that, generally speaking the internal political bound- 
aries of India became fixed. This removed the princes’ fears of 
expropriation and identified their interests with those of the British. 
The result was the petrification of the frontiers of over five hundred 
princely states, occupying nearly two-fifths of India. The reasons for 
this new attitude by the British were that most of the princely states 
had stood firm or at least neutral in the Mutiny, and the British hoped 
they would stand as firm in the future against any internal rebellion; 
furthermore, the British were unwilling to endanger their position by 
continuing a policy of political and social reform which had, they 
believed, contributed to the outbreak of the Mutiny. After i860, 
there were no further annexations, but the princely states had to 
accept the overriding authority of the government in Calcutta. 

So, too, the government of India was now subject to the over- 
riding authority of the secretary of state in London. Though the Act 
of 1858 set up a Council of India in London, which included 
members with Indian experience, to advise the secretary of state, it 
was essentially a consultative body. As parliament took little interest 
in Indian affairs, the secretary of state wielded virtually unlimited 
and only infrequently questioned powers. 

This authority really became effective after the construction of the 
Red Sea telegraph in 1870, which brought Whitehall and Calcutta 
into direct communication. Though strong viceroys were still able to 
get their own way in some matters, the government of India was 
fundamentally helpless. In everyday matters it had considerable 
freedom of action, but in constitutional issues affecting the govern- 
ment of India, the government in London often imposed its ideas in 
defiance of the administration in India. In the government of India 
itself there were a number of changes immediately after the Mutiny. 
The Central Legislative Council was enlarged in 1861 by the addition 
of non-official members, amongst whom were two Indians. The 
council had virtually no legislative function and no control over the 



executive. It was the first of many quasi-democratic devices designed 
to give an appearance of responsibility to institutions of a parlia- 
mentary character. Councils were established in the provinces on the 
same basis as at the Centre. These legislative councils supplied the 
framework for later demands for constitutional changes. In 1892 the 
principle of election was established, though only for special-interest 
groups such as municipalities, chambers of commerce and universities 
The Viceroy’s Executive Council, however, remained entirely 
official in character. 

Fear of external aggression still dominated many minds in India, 
especially in the army. Russian expansion in Central Asia raised 
the possibility of an attack upon India through Afghanistan. Similar 
fears had led in 1839 to the disasters of the first Afghan war. History 
virtually repeated itself - though without any serious military 
reverse - when in 1 879 British troops once again entered Afghanistan. 
A new Liberal administration in Britain, however, replaced the 
viceroy, and the campaign was brought to an end. 

Though the problems of Afghanistan and the Russian threat to 
India temporarily receded, they remained the axis on which much of 
the government of India’s policy revolved. Frontier affairs, both in 
their imperial aspect and in the local problem of frontier tribes, 
offered a continuing excuse for drastic administrative actions, as 
well as a valid argument for retaining large numbers of well-armed 
British troops in the country, ostensibly for the defence of the fron- 
tier. Apart from the drain on Indian finances, preoccupation with 
the North-West Frontier led to the neglect of other frontiers and to 
a specialization in military training which was found to be useless in 
1942 when India was really threatened with invasion. 

The last major aggression by Britain in Asia has certain similarities 
to events in Afghanistan, only with France instead of Russia as the 
rival power. France was expanding in Indo-China and there was 
some apprehension in Calcutta and London that French Influence 
was growing in Upper Burma, The death of King Mindon, who had 
ruled since 1853, led to a dispute over the succession, and Thibaw was 
placed on the throne as a pliable tool of the ministerial party in 1879. 
In that year, the British withdrew their Resident from the Burmese 
capital. Six years later an enormous fine was imposed on the British- 
owned Bombay-Burmah Trading Corporation, which had refused 



a loan to Thibaw. At the same time, a French envoy was endeavour- 
ing to obtain the management of state monopolies and the right to 
construct a railway. A British ultimatum (1883) was ignored by the 
Burmese, and war was declared by the British. Thibaw surrendered 
within two weeks and the country was annexed. The Indian system 
of administration was put into practice, and Burma became 
a province of the Indian empire. 

From the Mutiny until the 1890s was a period of civil peace in 
India, but this was broken towards the end of the period by out- 
bursts of extremist and revivalist nationalism. The history of India 
from the last decade of the nineteenth century until the end of British 
rule is virtually that of the conflict between the government of India 
and the principal nationalist movement, the Indian National 
Congress. Its principal events are a series of constitutional con- 
cessions by the British government. 

The first of these was the Indian Councils Act of 1909, usually 
called (after its authors) the Morley-Minto reforms. Briefly, its 
provisions increased the membership of the Central Legislative 
Council from sixteen to sixty, twenty-seven of whom were to be 
elected mainly by special-interest groups. Perhaps the most impor- 
tant change was the recognition of the Muslim community as the 
most important of these groups, and the dangerous principle of 
communal representation was incorporated into the Act. 

The members of council were made up of three groups - elected 
members, officials, and non-officials nominated by such bodies as 
trade associations, landholders, and universities. In the provinces, 
non-officials oumumbered the officials, but in the central council 
there was an official majority. The councils, however, could offer 
only criticism and advice. 

These concessions did not satisfy nationalist opinion, and agitation 
for further reform continued. In 1917, an announcement was made 
of further concessions. These were embodied in the Government of 
India Act of 1919, known as the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. The 
Act, which came into force in 1921, was a major step forward in the 
technique of responsible government but not in its practice, for 
though in theory the powers of the new legislatures were extensive, 
the governor-general remained the real authority; he could ‘certify* 
measures rejected by the legislatures, and if necessary rule by 



ordinance. A wide range of debate was therefore encouraged, but 
only listened to if it suited the executive. A system known as 
‘dyarchy’ was introduced in the provinces. By this was meant the 
division of the departments of administration into ‘reserved’ and 
‘transferred’ sectors. Generally speaking, law and order, revenue and 
finance, were reserved - i.e. administered by the provincial governor 
- while local government, sanitation, education, and economic 
development were transferred to elected ministers. Again, the 
concession of the forms of government without real responsibility led 
to further demands for reform. 

In external affairs, there was once again trouble with Afghanistan. 
In 1919, the Amir was assassinated and his son, Amanullah, taking 
advantage of civil disturbance in the Punjab, attempted to invade the 
North-West Frontier Province by raising the tribesmen. The 
campaign lasted for only a few weeks. 

India also began to take her place in international affairs. Indian 
representatives appeared at the League of Nations and at many 
international conferences. 

The disturbances in the Punjab, of which Amanullah had sought to 
take advantage, were the result of the delay in putting the new 
reforms into action. In 1919, martial law was declared in the Punjab, 
and a number of security ordinances were passed by the government 
which seemed at variance with the supposed spirit of the new 
reforms. The consequences of a massacre of unarmed people at 
Amritsar by troops under the command of Brigadier-General Dyer 
convinced Congress nationalists that the British government did not 
intend to allow the new reforms to work. The result was the first 
non-co-operation campaign of the new Congress leader, Mahatma 

The campaign resulted in the abstention of nearly two-thirds of 
the eligible electorate from voting for the new legislatures. English 
cloth was burnt in public, and the jails were crowded with 30,000 
political prisoners. The Prince of Wales, brought out to India to 
arouse the enthusiasm of the masses for the Crown, was greeted by a 
hartal (suspension of business) which faced him with empty streets. 

At the session of Congress held at Ahmedabad in 1921, Gandhi 
was given the sole authority to lead the nationalist movement. Mass 
demonstrations were called off after the destruction of a police 



Station and the murder of twenty-two policemen in a town in the 
United Provinces. The frustration which resulted and the failure of 
the Swaraj party formed by C. R. Das and Pandit Motilal Nehru to 
contest the elections and to wreck reforms from within, helped to 
revive Hindu-Muslim conflict. Communal riots, undoubtedly 
provoked, broke out in 1923, and the Muslim League which had 
been virtually moribund since 1916 was revived in the following 

One of the provisions of the 1919 Act was that its results should be 
examined after ten years. In 1927, a Conservative government in 
Britain appointed a commission of investigation consisting entirely of 
British members of parliament under the chairmanship of Sir John 
Simon. The commission visited India in the following year, but was 
boycotted by nationalist leaders. Its report was issued in 1930. In the 
meanwhile, however, a Labour government had taken office,’ and 
the viceroy - who had been recalled for consultations - announced 
on his return to India that the British government envisaged that 
constitutional progress would lead in time to dominion status for 
India. He also announced that a conference representing all sectors of 
Indian life, including the princes, would meet shortly in London. 

The boycott of the Simon commission in India might have given 
the opportunity for an alliance between the Muslim League and 
Congress. However, Congress refused to accept claims put forward 
on behalf of the Muslims by M. A. Jinnah at an all-party conference 
held in 1928. Both the all-party conference and later Congress 
agreed to accept dominion status by 31 December 1929 at the latest, 
despite the latter’s declaration in 1927 that its aim was complete 
independence. However, Congress, in a session at Lahore in Decem- 
ber T929 again declared that its aim was complete independence, and 
decided to boycott the forthcoming conference in London and begin 
a civil disobedience campaign. The campaign was inaugurated by 
Mahatma Gandhi on 6 April 1930 with his famous march to Dandi in 
western India and his making of salt from sea-water in protest 
against the government’s salt monopoly. This was followed by mass 
strikes, the boycott of British goods, and violence. The government 
reacted with such vigour that 103 people were killed, 420 injured, 
and 60,000 imprisoned in less than a year. These repressive measures 
proved unsuccessful, and conciliation was attempted. 

F* 159 


The fint session of the Round Table Conference in London was 
adjourned on 2 January 1931. On 4 March, the so-called Gandhi- 
Irwin pact between die Congress leader and the viceroy was 
concluded. The government abandoned its repressive measures and 
released political prisonen, and Cot^ess called off the dvil dis^' 
obedience campaign and agreed to join the conference when it 
re-assembled. Gandhi attended as the only representative of Congress, 
and proved unwilling to agree on any subject. The government 
decided that it must proceed without the approval of the Indian 
National Congress. In January 1932, Gandhi was arrested and 
Congress was declared an illegal organization. By March of the 
following year, more than 120,000 people had been arrested in India 
and, according to a report of a delegation of the India League 
(published in 1933), there were ‘wholesale violence, physical out- 
rages, punitive expeditions, collective fines on villages, and seizure of 
lands and property’. 

Civil disobedience continued until May 1934, when Congress 
decided that it would work within the framework of the forth- 
coming Government of India Act of 1935 which was to come into 
force in 1937. The provisions of the new Act were as follows, (i) The 
provinces, then numbering eleven, were to be given full responsible 
government, subject to certain reserved powers in the hands of the 
governors to be used only in the event of complete breakdown of law 
and order. (2) At the centre, a federal structure was to be set up. The 
central legislature was to consist of two houses, made up for the first 
time of representatives not only from the provinces but from the 
princely states. The viceroy’s executive council was to consist of 
ministers responsible to the central legislature, with the exception of 
the portfolios of foreign affairs and defence, which were to remain in 
the hands of the viceroy, who also retained certain reserve powers 
like those of the provincial governors to be used in die case of 
emergency. As for dominion status, it was officially stated that the 
clauses of the Act - i.e. the retention of reserve powers - which 
precluded full self-government were merely transitional, and that 
India would, by usage and convention, quickly acquire all the 
freedom, external and internal, enjoyed by the other dominions. 

That part of the Act concerning a federal structure never came 
into force, as the princes could not agree to any lessening of their 



sovereignty. The federal principle was also denounced by both 
Congress and the Muslim League. Thus the government of India 
remained what it always had been, an autocratic government with 
the executive only responsible to the secretary of state in London. 

The elections held early in 1937 resulted in Congress ministries in 
seven out of the eleven provinces. In some provinces, the Muslim 
League wanted to form coalition ministries with Congress, but 
Congress refused. Congress administrations were reasonably 
successful, and the prestige of the organization had grown to such an 
extent that its membership reached five million by the end of 1939. 

When the second world war broke out, Congress refused to co- 
operate with the government, and all the Congress ministries 
resigned in October and November 1939. But with the German 
armies apparently victorious in Europe, Congress offered to co- 
operate with the British government if a provisional national 
government was established at the centre. This was refused in August 
1940, but an offer was made (i) to set up after the war a body to 
prepare a new constitution, (2) to enlarge the viceroy's executive 
council with more Indian members, and (3) to create a War Advisory 
Council of representatives from British India and the princely states. 
Congress rejected the offer, and a new civil disobedience campaign - 
not on a mass scale, but by individuals only - was begun. 

After the fall of Rangoon to the Japanese in March 1942 and the 
possibility of an immediate attack on India, the British cabinet 
minister. Sir Stafford Cripps, was sent to India with what was 
virtually the same offer as that of August 1940. In the meanwhile, the 
Muslim League, whose provincial governments had not resigned at 
the outbreak of war, had become totally estranged from Congress. 

On 8 August 1942, Congress called for a widespread return to mass 
civil disobedience. The government acted immediately by declaring 
Congress illegal and arresting its leaders. Riots and sabotage through- 
out India followed. Repression was again immediate. Over 60,000 
people were arrested, 18,000 detained without trial, 940 killed, and 
1,630 injured in clashes with police and troops. 

In May 1944, Mahatma Gandhi was released from jail on grounds 
of ill health. His first act was to hold discussions withjinnah, but they 
had no positive result. In March 1945, the viceroy. Lord Wavell, 
returned from London with the proposal that all members of his 



executive council (except the comtaander-in-<chief) should be Indians 
drawn from among the leaders of the political parties, with equal 
Muslim and Hindu representation. A conference held at Simla in 
June 1945 broke down because there was no agreement between 
Congress and the Muslim League. Shortly afterwards, a Labour 
government came to power in Britain and decided to hold fresh 
elections in India. These were held at the begiiuiing of 1946 and the 
result was an overwhelming victory for Congress in the general 
seats and for the Muslim League in those seats reserved for Muslims. 

On 19 February 1946, the British prime minister announced a 
mission to India of some members of his cabinet. The mission 
arrived in India in March. After a series of discussions with Congress 
and Muslim League leaders in which no area of agreement between 
the two parties could be found, the mission announced its own 
recommendations on 16 May. 

These proposed (i) a federal government, to include the princely 
states; (2) the division of India into tliree provincial groups con- 
sisting of the North-West Frontier Province, Sind, Baluchistan and 
the Punjab; Bengal and Assam; and the rest; (3) a constitution to be 
framed by a constituent assembly elected on a communal basis by the 
provincial legislative assemblies; (4) the provinces could, if they 
wished, leave the new federation after the election of the assembly; 
and (5) a provisional national government should be established 
fortliwith from the leaders of the different parties. 

The proposals were accepted by the Muslim League on 6 June, but 
Congress rejected them, though offering to join a constituent 
assembly for the purpose of framing a new constitution. The British 
cabinet mission left India on 29 June. The Muslim League then 
demanded that the viceroy should go ahead and constitute a pro- 
visional government, even though Congress refused to take part. 
This, of coune, was not acceptable, and the League withdrew its 
previous approval of the mission’s proposals. The viceroy then 
reconstructed his executive council - but with Congress members 
only. The League’s reaction to this was to declare 16 August as a day 
of ‘direct action’. On that day, though most demonstrations ‘were 
peaceful, Calcutta became the scene of the most brutal communal 
riots. A number of Hindus were killed and Hindu property was 
looted and destroyed; in self^efence, the Hindus, too, took to the 



streets. The Muslim League government of Bengal took no decisive 
action. Neither did the British governor, nor the central government. 

Other outbreaks of communal violence followed when Congress 
nominees were sworn in to the viceroy’s executive council. But the 
viceroy succeeded in bringing Muslim League members into his 
council and informed Congress that the League had agreed to join 
a constituent assembly. The council was not, however, notable for 
harmony, and the situation deteriorated even further when it 
transpired that the League had in fact no intention of joining in the 
assembly. Nevertheless, the assembly met on 9 December 1946 and 
appointed committees to draft the provisions of the new constitution. 
The Muslim League did not participate. 

On 20 February 1947, the British government announced its 
intention of leaving India by June 1948 and appointed Lord Mount- 
batten as viceroy, to carry out the transfer of power. The Muslim 
League once more embarked on ‘direct action’. Violence, murder and 
arson convulsed the Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province. 
Congress reluctantly accepted the fact that, if independence were to 
be achieved, India must be divided. 

On 3 June, the new viceroy broadcast a declaration of British 
government policy. Its substance was: (i) If Muslim-majority areas 
so desired, they should be permitted to form a separate dominion, 
and a new constituent assembly would be set up for the 
purpose. In that case, however, Bengal and the Punjab would have 
to be partitioned if the representatives of Hindu-majority districts in 
the legislatures of those provinces so demanded. (2) A referendum 
would be carried out in the North-West Frontier Province to 
ascertain whether or not it wished to join Pakistan. (3) The district of 
Sylhet would be joined to the Muslim area of Bengal after the 
people’s views had been discovered by a referendum. (4) Boundary 
commissions would be set up to define the boundaries of the Hindu 
and Muslim provinces in Bengal and the Punjab. (5) Legislation 
would be introduced in the current session of parliament at West- 
minster to confer immediate dominion status on India (or on the two 
countries, if partition was decided upon), without any prejudice to 
the final decision of the constituent assembly (or assemblies) in this 

Both Congress and the Muslim League finally accepted the plan, 



and the India Independence Act passed through parliament on i July 
1947. The date set for the transfer of power to India and Pakistan had 
been advanced to 15 August 1947. On that day, the constituent 
assembly in Delhi declared India a dominion within the British 
Commonwealth. Lord Mountbatten was to be its first governor- 
general. In Karachi, Mr. Jinnah was chosen to be first governor- 
general of Pakistan. The British Indian empire was at an end. 



The British in India 


T he British community was taken by surprise in 1857 when the 
Bengal army began its rebellion. The British had assumed that 
all was quiet, that the reforming and progressive actions of 
government had spread only gratitude and affection. When reports 
came in of the massacre of British officers and their wives and chil- 
dren, they were horrified and called loudly for revenge. All elements 
gave way to hatred, but racial antagonism was strongest amongst 
the non-official merchant community and the planters. Though, 
when the Mutiny ended, the government was prepared to pursue a 
policy of conciliation, many of the British were not and the memory 
of the Mutiny remained as a constant reminder that it was unwise to 
trust the natives. It was a not unnatural reaction to the times when 
a trusted servant or a regimental soldier had suddenly changed, 
apparently without reason, into a murderer. In spite of the fact that 
many British came to realize, after the hot flush of the Mutiny had 
died down, that they and their government were not entirely 
blameless, the distrust never wholly disappeared. 

After 1858, the numbers of the British, both official and non- 
official, increased steadily over the years. ‘Anglo-Indian’ society had 
its stratifications and was large enough to contain most of the 
activities of the British in India. Officials and soldiers were compelled 
- particularly outside the large towns - to have contact with Indians, 
but it was almost entirely official contact. Social relations were ex- 
tremely rare, and the civil servant who was interested in Indian culture 
even rarer. The British became completely what they were already 
becoming in the last twenty years of Company rule - ‘a separate caste, 
with several sub-castes, strictly preserving the usual characteristics of 
endogamy, commensality, and mutual control by members’ [1]. 



The expansion of the railway network cut out that intimacy with 
the country which long-distance travelling overland had brought. 
As the century grew older, passages from India to Britain became 
faster. The pressures of disease, however, remained constant until the 
discovery of anti-malaria and anti-cholcra protection late in the 

The British community considered every attempt to allow 
Indians into the higher levels of government service and the judiciary 
as a direct threat to their position. The growth of middle-class 
nationalism was looked upon with disfavour and suspicion. Out- 
breaks of religion-inspired violence raised fears of anotlier rebellion. 

When, in 1883, a Liberal viceroy brought in a Bill by which 
Europeans could be tried by Indian magistrates, the non-official 
community reacted as it had done almost fifty years earlier at the 
time of the Black Act of 1837. The non-official community, already 
feeling menaced by the expansion of local government bodies to 
include Indians, was incensed at the viceroy’s action. Most members 
of the community said that it was an insult, and some even went to 
the length of suggesting that Englishwomen would be in danger, as 
Indian judges would abuse their powers in order to fill their harems 
with white women ! At a mass meeting held in Calcutta in February 
1883 there were many wild speeches. A leading British lawyer 
warned his audience against ‘the wily natives’ who had poisoned the 
minds of the rulers against the British community. Even apparently 
‘advanced’ members of the community considered the Bill an insult. 
Mrs. Annette Beveridge, who had gone to India to help Indian 
women, claimed that the Bill would subject ‘civilised women [i.e. 
Englishwomen] to the jurisdiction of men who have done little or 
nothing to redeem the women of their own race, and whose social 
ideas are still on the outer verge of civilization’ [2], The agitation 
resulted in the founding of a European and Anglo-Indian Defence 
Association. In the end, the British succeeded in winning the right to 
trial by a jury - of their own countrymen. 

As political extremism grew in the last decade of the nineteenth 
century and burst into terrorism in the first decade of the twentieth, 
the British-owned press - which represented to a large extent the 
views of the non-official community - strongly attacked all nation- 
alists, whether moderate or extremist. The Allahabad Pioneer of 5 


May 1908 suggested that the sort of vengeance might be meted out 
which had been given to mutineers in 1857. The wholesale arrest of 
the acknowledged terrorists in a city or district’, it wrote, ‘coupled 
with an intimation that at any repetition of the offence ten of them 
would be shot for every life sacrificed, would soon put down the 
practice [of throwing bombs].’ 

The first world war brought changes in the composition of the 
non-official community. A great many new recruits to large 
European business undertakings arrived in India and altered the 
general balance of the community. These new arrivals, however, 
were no less xenophobic. General Dyer, who opened fire on an 
unarmed crowd of civilians at Amritsar in 1919, was widely sup- 
ported by the British community and a large sum of money was 
subscribed for him after he had been forced to resign. 

During the years after the war, as the British government yielded 
to nationalist pressures, the British community continued to fight in its 
own defence, but slowly began to realize that the tide was running 
irresistibly against the old order. Nevertheless, racial arrogance 
remained undiluted and racial sentiments were expressed no less 
vulgarly than they had been before. Some British still tried to break 
through the barriers between themselves and the Indians, but few 
had much success. There was a certain amount of public frater- 
nization, but it was mainly with those Indians - princely rulers and 
businessmen - who had little identification with the reality of the 
nationalist struggle. 

The texture of British life in India became, with the electric fan, 
the refrigerator and the motor-car, smoother and less irritating. The 
pioneering of air routes to India brought ‘Home’ within a few days’ 
journey. The sense of dangerous exile which had given the British 
so much moral support began to disappear just at the time when 
British India was nearing its end. In the last twenty years of its life, 
the British in India had little influence upon events. Their prejudices 
remained to antagonize many Indians. In rapidly changing circum- 
stances, they were still on occasion outspokenly offensive. But in the 
end, it was the government in London which made the decisions, 
and in the last years of British rule that government was less re- 
sponsive to the demands of the British community in India than it 
had ever been before. 




In 1861, Alexander Cunningham sent a memorandum to the 
viceroy complaining that the government paid no attention to the 
antiquities of India. In response, Cunningham was appointed 
Director of Archaeology in 1862. The government anticipated that 
the appointment would only be temporary and that Cunningham 
would be able to complete all the necessary work of recording 
Indian antiquities in a few years! However, in 1871, Cunningham 
was given the title of Director-Gcncral of the Archaeological Survey 
of India. The title was impressive, but in fact Cunningham had no 
proper staff and in effect directed only himself. In 1874, the survey, 
which had been confined to northern India, was extended to the 
presidencies of Madras and Bombay. Dr. James Burgess, who was 
given charge of the work, was nominally subordinate to Cunningham 
but in fact had a free hand. 

Cunningham’s main preoccupation was with Buddhist remains, a 
reflection of the contemporary interest in Buddhism in Europe. 
Between 1862 and 1884 he published twenty-three full volumes of 
reports on his tours. They contained a great mass of inadequately 
related material. Cunningham spent very little time at any of his 
sites, and much of the digging he carried out destroyed valuable 
archaeological evidence, but he did discover a wide range of objects 
of great importance to the history of Indian art. He was, indeed, an 
amateur. So, in fact, were most of the archaeologists of the time. 
James Burgess might condemn Cunningham’s volumes as ‘essentially 
the reports of unconnected tours . . . not scientific or reliable’ fj], but 
he was not well acquainted with the latest scholarship himself though 
he was much more methodical in his work than Cunningham. 

When Cunningham retired in 1885 Burgess took his place as head 
of the department and its work was extended, but with only a small 
increase in staff. There was still an aura of impermanency about the 
department, for the government anticipated that the survey would be 
completed in five years or so and that the department could then be 
disbanded, leaving the responsibility for the conservation of 
antiquities to local governments. 

Conservation, in fact, was a new concept. It was not until 1881 
that the central government had decided to appoint a Curator of 
Ancient Monuments, charged with preparing a list of such monu- 



ments and stating which should be kept in permanent good repair. 
The man appointed to the post had been an engineer officer, Major 
H. n. Cole, who produced a large number of reports including ten 
folio volumes published under the title Preservation of National 
Monuments in India (Calcutta 1881-85). 

Cole’s appointment, which had been for only three years, was not 
extended, and such impetus as he had been able to give to the work of 
conservation rapidly faded. After the retirement of Burgess in 1889, 
the work of the survey also suffered. The position of director- 
general was not filled, and the department almost came to a stand- 
still. In 1895 the future of the survey was considered by the govern- 
ment. Though it was decided not to abolish it, the government 
decided that conservation was more important than research. In a 
reorganization that took place, conservation remained the respon- 
sibility of provincial governments. Where local officials were in- 
terested, conservation was carried out, but on the whole buildings of 
great historical and artistic value were allowed to decay. 

The depressed state of government-sponsored archaeological work 
continued until the arrival in India of Lord Curzon in 1898. On a 
visit to India a few years before his appointment as viceroy, he had 
been particularly attracted by Mughal architecture. He had seen then 
the neglect of ancient monuments, and he was determined to do 
something about it. His reasons were complex but his actions were 
single-minded and he caused a tremendous shake-up among those 
nominally responsible for conservation. In a speech to the Asiatic 
Society in Calcutta, he stated his intention ‘to assert more definitely 
during my time the Imperial responsibility of Government in respect 
of Indian antiquities to inaugurate or to persuade a more liberal 
attitude on the part of those with whom it rests to provide the means 
and to be a faithful guardian of the priceless treasure-house of art 
and learning that has, for a few years at any rate, been committed to 
my charge’ [4]. 

Curzon’s proposals for the reappointment of a director-general 
and the sanctioning of government funds for archaeological work 
were confirmed by the secretary of state in London in 1901. The man 
appointed, John Marshall, arrived in India in the following year. The 
revived department continued to be starved of both men and money. 
For a number of years, some of its workers held dual appointments - 


Aurcl Stein, for example, was both Archaeological Superintendent 
and Inspector-General of Education in the North-West Frontier 
Province. The work of conservation and repair got under way. Huts 
were cleared from the approaches to palaces. The Taj Mahal had its 
squalid surroundings cleaned up. This work continued steadily until 
the end of British rule. 

Scientific digging of sites at last began to bring current standards of 
professionalism into the work in India. Under Marshall’s guidance 
many sites were scientifically investigated, included those of the pre- 
Aryan Indus valley civilization at Harappa and Mohenjodaro - one of 
the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. 

With the coming of scientific archaeology, the amateur ceased to 
be of much consequence, though there were still officials interested 
enough to investigate local painting and sculpture. James Fergusson 
produced his History of Indian and Eastern Architecture in 1875. But in 
the twentieth century, this sort of work became almost completely 
the monopoly of scholars in the West. The curiosity of the ordinary 
Englishman in India had to give place to the organized curiosity of 
government and universities. 


After the Mutiny, administrators and soldiers continued the 
literary traditions of their predecessors. Many of their works were on 
history and administration, though they occasionally wrote light 
verse and novels. Among the historians, W. W. Hunter not only 
explored Indian history but something of the actual scene in the 1870s. 
The atmosphere of post-Mutiny India is contained in George Otto 
Trevelyan’s The Competition-lVallah (1864). In the second half of the 
nineteenth century, many administrators wrote their memoirs. Few 
have literary value, but all are of historical and sociological interest. 
Of officials who could write about their work with style, there were 
few who could do as well as S. S. Thorburn whose Mussulmans and 
Moneylenders (1886), though concerned only with the Punjab, is one 
of the most revealing and humane documents on the state of the 
debt-ridden Indian peasant. Sir Alfred Lyall, who wrote poetry as 
well as history, was also a stylist writer. 

Under the stimulus of Curzon, there was a revival of interest in the 
actual life of the British in India, and with his encouragement such 



works as E. J. Buck’s Simla: Past and Present (1904) and H. E. Bus- 
tecd’s Echoes from Old Calcutta (1908) were written by government 

With the considerable growth in the size of the British community 
after i860, British society in India took on a life of its own. The 
business element expanded, but new types of English residents - such 
as - journalists and school-teachers - also appeared. After the 
opening of the Suez Canal (1869) the number of ‘cold-weather’ 
visitors increased. The English reading public in India was now quite 
substantial and its needs could not be entirely supplied from Britain. 
There grew up a market for verse and fiction about the lives of the 
British in India. There was also a growing market in Britain for tales 
about India and for descriptive works about life there. The ex- 
patriate community, though it occasionally believed itself menaced 
by growing Indian unrest, felt - at least till the end of the century - 
strong enough to laugh at itself. Novels such as H. S. Cunningham’s 
Chronicles ofDustypore (1879) took a sly look at the life of the British 
in their ghetto (known in India as ‘the station’). There was also a 
vague interest in the natives - as servants - as in ‘EHA’ Behind the 
Bungalow (1901). Most of this kind of work is still readable, and 
sometimes still amusing. G. Aberigh-Mackay’s Twenty-One Days in 
India ^ first published anonymously in a Bombay newspaper in 1880, 
contains portraits of such pillars of ‘Anglo-Indian’ society as the 
commander-in-chief. ‘At Simla and Calcutta the Government of 
India always sleeps with a revolver under its pillow - that revolver is 
the Commander-in-Chief. There is a tacit understanding that this 
revolver is not to be let off; indeed, sometimes it is believed that this 
revolver is not loaded’ [5]. 

In this tradition is the Indian work of Rudyard Kipling, who 
became the laureate of Anglo-India for a larger audience than it could 
ever have considered possible. Kipling explored the shallow lives of 
the British in India and reflected some, but by no means all, of their 
prejudices. The few Indians who appear in such of his work as was 
written in India arc either servants or ‘incompetent’ educated 
Bengalis. It was only after leaving India that Kipling was able to 
write, in Kim, what is undoubtedly the best work of fiction about 
India by an Englishman. 

A number of other writers followed Kipling. Among the most 



interesting was Flora Annie Steel, whose On the Face of the Waters 
(1896) ~ a novel about the Mutiny - is again concerned with the 
British. Its Indian characters are merely symbols. No ‘Anglo-Indian’ 
writer was able to portray Indians with any sense of life. The 
journalist Edmund Candler made, perhaps, the first attempt in his 
Shri Ram, Revolutionist {1910). 

In the last twenty-five years of British rule two outstanding 
novelists produced works dealing with British life in India. One, E. 
M. Forster’s A Passage to India, though hailed by Indians for its attack 
on ‘Anglo-Indian’ society and its prejudices, is just as offensive in its 
drawing of Indian character as its predecessors. Edward Thompson’s 
novels, on the other hand, give an accurate feel of the disintegrating 
empire of the 1930s. 

There were many writers of light verse, and Kipling’s Depart- 
mental Ditties (1886) are very much in the tradition. Most of this sort 
of verse was published first (and sometimes only) in newspapers. 
Much of it was concerned with the ‘in’ jokes of British society. It is 
mainly humorous .and deliberately imitative of well-known 
contemporary British poetry. 

‘O grim and ghastly Mussulman, 

Why art thou wailing so? 

Is there a pain within thy brain, 

Or in thy little toe? 

The twilight shades arc shutting fast 
The golden gates of day, 

Then shut up, too, your hullabaloo - 
Or what’s the matter, say?’ 

That stern and sombre Mussulman, 

He heeded not my speech. 

But raised again his howl of pain, - 
A most unearthly screech ! 

‘He dies !’ - 1 thought, and forthwith rushed 
To aid the wretched man. 

When, with a shout, he yell’d - 'Get out ! 

Fm singing the Koran !’ 

The Poet's Mistake [6] 



For much of the nineteenth century, the sense of exile and of doing 
one’s duty with suffering remained - it is everywhere in Kipling’s 
Indian work - and it was sometimes expressed with almost patho- 
logical melancholy. 

My fellow exiles, fill your glasses, 

We’ll sing one song before we die; 

The tiger in the jungle-grasses 
Has sucked the peasant’s life-blood dry. 

The Song of Death [7] 

For poets of some sensibility like Sir Alfred Lyall, India was the 
‘Land of Regrets’ and the Englishman always a stranger. This 
attitude, however, did not survive the first world war, when the 
spread of communications removed the sense of exile, and the 
growth of nationalism and the constitutional changes lessened the 
sense of duty. Nevertheless, even as late as 1933, an anonymous poet 
could still write: 

The wheeling months go round 
And back I come again 
To the baked and blistered ground 
And the dust-encumbered plain 
And the bare hot- weather trees 
And the Trunk Road’s aching white; 

Oh, land of little ease ! 

Oh, land of strange delight ! 

Back East [S] 


The men who went out to India after 1858 did not consider 
drawing and water-colour painting as manly accomplishments. 
They left those to the women. There was no longer an interest 
in the picturesque. India had ceased to be an unknown land, and 
there was no longer any need to illustrate letters home with drawings 
of exotic natives and their festivals. Even the professional artist had no 
particular interest in India - he was concerned, as were his clients, 
with narrative paintings demonstrating some unimpeachable and 



easily recognizable moral precept. One or two professional artists 
did visit India and one at least found himself appalled by the lack of 
any expression of good taste among the British in India. In any case, 
the camera had replaced the eye and the hand. By 1870, photography 
had triumphed over the paintbrush. Instead of illustrating books from 
paintings and drawings, it became fashionable to use photographs. As 
early as 1863, William Johnson of the Bombay Civil Service pro- 
duced a volume on Oriental Races and Tribes^ lavishly illustrated with 
photographs. In 1868, The People of India: A Series of Photographic 
Illustrations with Descriptive Letterpress of the Races and Tribes of 
Hindustan appeared with government approval. ‘During the 
administration of Lord Canning’, wrote the editors,}. F. Watson and 
J. W. Kaye, ‘the interest which had been created in Europe by the 
remarkable development of the Photographic Art, communicated 
itself to India and originated the desire to turn it to account in the 
illustration of the topography, architecture and ethnology of the 
country. There were none, perhaps, in whom this interest was 
awakened more strongly than in Lord and Lady Canning. It was 
their wish to carry home with them at the end of their sojourn in 
India, a collection, obtained by private means, of photographic 
illustrations, which might recall to their memory the peculiarities of 

Indian life When the pacification of India [after the Mutiny] had 

been accomplished, the officers of the Indian services, who had made 
themselves acquainted with the principles and practice of photo- 
graphy, encouraged and patronized by the Governor-General, went 
forth and traversed the land in search of interesting subjects’ [p]. 

Even after the triumph of the camera, there still remained a small 
number of amateur artists in the Indian services. A number of minor 
professional artists such as Lionel Edwards painted routine pictures of 
British life in India - pig-sticking and polo - which at least have some 
vague documentary value. 

★ ★ ★ 

The public architecture of the Indian empire in the late nineteenth 
century reflected the taste of Victorian England. The Public Works 
Department was its architect, and it produced a range of buildings 
embodying most of the fashionable features of Western architecture 



firom nco-Gothic to pseudo-Italian Renaissance. As one artist who 
visited India in 1876 put it, as he gazed at the dais erected for the 
Great Durbar at Delhi - at which Queen Victoria was to be pro- 
claimed empress of India - ‘Well, perhaps it is a type of the new Raj 
. . . cold, flaring and bare, without a rag of sentiment’ [1 0]. Yet today, 
for all the justifiable criticisms that can be levelled against the 
examples o(*dak bungalow Gothic’, as it has been called, they reflect 
in their demented Mughal motifs a pleasant zaniness which was not 
in the minds of their designers. It is significant that Lord Curzon, so 
much concerned with preserving India’s past, should when he turned 
to public building have encouraged the pastiche of European styles. 
For him, as for many others, Indian art and architecture were really a 
matter of archaeology, something dead. The Viaoria Memorial Hall 
in Calcutta, which Curzon initiated, is built of shimmering white 
marble, allegedly in the style of the Italian Renaissance, with the 
addition - according to the architect. Sir William Emerson - of ‘a 
suggestion of Orientalism in the arrangement of the domes and 
minor details’. 

When the British decided to move their capital from Calcutta to 
Delhi in 1912, they employed two English architects. Sir Edwin 
Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, to design the major public buildings. 
The result was a series of grandiose barracks incorporating classical 
and Mughal motifs without synthesis or sympathy. The buildings 
were more a gesture of defiance to growing Indian assertions than 
anything else, for they were - and are - completely unsuited to the 
Indian climate. Yet New Delhi is perhaps the most fitting mon- 
ument to die British in India. Many of the elegant eighteenth- 
century buildings have disappeared, though a few, such as Govern- 
ment House, Calcutta, stiU stand. The classical architecture of 
Calcutta and elsewhere was erected without defiance - it was a 
statement made, not to impress Indians, but to convince the British 
themselves of their new status as rulers. The Gothic railway stations 
and fake Renaissance pa/iizzi of Victorian India were expressions of 
contempt, a kind of racial architecture. But when the British erected 
New Delhi, they intended it as a statement of their intention to 
remain in India. The result was it is a Eurasian architecture in which 
the European and Indian elements stand uneasily together. 



The Nature of British Rule 

government: principles and practice 

T he Mutiny brought more than the end of the East India 
Company and a new relationship between the government of 
India and the Crown. It also brought a change in the spirit of 
government. In the words of Fitzjames Stephen, it resulted in ‘the 
breakdown of the old system; the renunciation of the attempt to 
effect an impossible compromise between the Asiatic and European 
view of things, legal, military and administrative. The effect of the 
Mutiny on the Statute-book was unmistakable’ [r]. The belief- the 
essential belief behind the Bentinck reforms - that co-operation 
between the British and Indian middle classes could produce 
sweeping reform, died. The legislation of the sixties and seventies, 
which included the enactment of civil and criminal law codes, was 
to be conceived in an aggressive no-nonsense manner, sword in hand. 

On the surface, the new spirit seemed very little different from the 
stern-faced paternalism of the Punjab system. But the men who 
operated that system had done so with a genuine, though limited, 
affection for the people. The new spirit was cold, bureaucratic, 
optimistic, and racially arrogant. It was also cautious, though this 
may seem paradoxical. The caution was apparent in the govern- 
ment’s continuing unwillingness to interfere directly in matters of 
religion and social custom. Such interference did take place, but not 
as part of conscious policy. 

After the debacle of the Mutiny, the aim was to impose a modem 
and efficient administration, operated by experts within the scaffold- 
ing of a codified law. The principles were to be English principles and 
only English principles. John Lawrence put the case in 1858 when he 
wrote: ‘We have not been elected or placed in power by the people, 
but we are here through our moral superiority, by the force of 



circumstances, by the will of Providence. This alone constitutes our 
charter to govern India. In doing the best we can for the people, we 
are bound by our conscience, and not by theirs’ [2]. Lawrence, 
nevertheless, represented part of a dying system. As a good pat- 
ernalist, he believed in simple personal rule. As viceroy (1864-69), he 
resisted the creation of an executive council for Bengal which had 
been removed from the governor-general’s immediate authority in 
1854. His opposition was based on the thesis that the best form of 
government emerged from a personal administration with a strong 
central authority. Dalhousie had already advocated the abolition of 
the governorships of Madras and Bombay in 1853. Lawrence 
reinforced this with his view that there was ‘as strong a necessity as 
there possibly could be, for one central absolute authority in India, to 
which all other authorities in that country must entirely defer’ [j]. 

There was, however, opposition in Britain to any form of 
centralization in India. There was, too, the fear that had been 
expressed at the end of the previous century by Edmund Burke that 
unchecked despotism would inevitably lead to corruption and 
oppression. In 1784, the government had set up a board of control in 
Britain, with a member of the British government at its head, to 
oversee the Company’s rule. Even after 1858 - with the Company 
dead, and direct authority for the governing of India invested in a 
minister of the Crown - it was still thought necessary to hold on to 
some principle of control, some balance of authorities. To check the 
activities of the secretary of state for India, a Council of India was set 
up, consisting in the main of former directors and employees of the 
Company. The secretary of state was obliged to consult this council 
before sending instructions to India; in emergencies, however, he was 
empowered to act without it. Parliament also attempted to develop 
effective control over Indian affairs by requiring that an annual 
statement of finances and of moral and material progress should be 
submitted to the House of Commons. 

Sir Charles Wood, who had been president of the board of control 
from 1853 to 1855, was secretary of state between 1859 and 1866. In 
this capacity, he favoured decentralization in India. The presidency 
governments were permitted to retain their quasi-independent state 
vis-a-vis the government of India. The government of India itself 
was made entirely subordinate to the home government. 



All these assorted checks and balances did not permit any belief in 
the advisability - or even the possibility - of some form of repre- 
sentative institutions in India. The checks were regarded as a means of 
restraining concentration of power at the centre, not only because 
such concentration was considered morally indefensible but because 
it left too large a margin for error. One man’s decision, if he had no 
guidance from the opinions of others, could lead to disastrous results 
in terms of human life. It was suggested, for example, that if the 
lieutenant-governor of Bengal had had an executive council to advise 
him the Bengal administration would have been less unprepared for 
the terrible famine which broke out in Orissa in 1866; the decision 
not to act had been taken by the lieutenant-governor alone. The 
complexities of the modem state could not permit decision to rest in 
the hands of one man. It was a question of efficiency, no more 
Parliament also expected the legislative council to play an impor- 
tant role - though not in limiting despotism. Its function was to be a 
‘public’ forum for discussing the acts of the government. In the 
Central Legislative Assembly, Dalhousie had seen the germs of a 
representative institution, but when the Indian Councils Act of 1861 
was passed any such possibility was explicitly denied. The new Act 
allowed for the nomination of ‘non-official’ Europeans and Indians to 
the legislative councils, but they were there to offer advice, not to 
represent any sector of popular opinion. The viceroy of the time. 
Lord Canning, who had been the last govemor-^;eneral under 
Company rule, believed that Dalhousie had made a great mistake in 
implying that the central legislative council bore any resemblance 
to a parliament. Nevertheless, Canning was aware of the growing 
interest among educated Indians in the activities of govemmmt and 
believed that, in some way, it should be satisfied. Battle Frere, an 
experienced British official, remarked that he himself knew ‘fow 
things more striking than the change whidi has come over die 
Natives in this respect. Twenty years ago they were remarkable for 
their general indifforence to all public questions which had no 
immediate local bearing. But this indifference has given place among 
the more intelligent classes to a feverish curiosity which has of late 
years frequently struck me as one of the most notewordiy changes in 
the general characteristics of Native society’ [4]. It was essential, 
Frere believed, that the government should luve some way of 



knowing whether or not the laws it passed were sensible without 
having to wait for a rebellion to prove it. 

There was to be no confirmation, however, of Dalhousie’s premise 
that the Central Legislative Assembly might develop a representative 
character. Sir Charles Wood expressed the matter with some 
precision in the House of Commons in June i86i. ‘You caimot 
possibly’, he said, ‘assemble at any one place in India persons who 
shall be the real representatives of the various classes of the Native 
population of that empire’ [j]. 

The concept of Indian government enshrined in the Act of 1861 
was one of despotism tempered, but not controlled, by discussion. As 
well as placing checks on personal authority, the Act did reflect 
certain political considerations. It was felt that some reward was 
necessary for those who had remained loyal to ihc British during the 
Mutiny. The first three Indians nominated to ihe central legislative 
council were therefore the Maharaja of Patiala, who had supplied a 
force to help the British; Raja Dinkar Rao Raghunath, diwan (prime 
minister) of the Maharaja of Gwalior; and Raja Deo Narain Singh, 
another supporter of British rule. In fact, all Indians appointed to the 
council before the reforms of 1892 seem to have been awarded the 
honour in payment for their own or their fathers’ support during the 

The existence of legislative councils did not affect either the 
functioning of the government or what might be termed the philcn 
sophical preoccupations of some of its members. Ever since the first 
Utilitarians, India had been treated as a kind of laboratory for 
political experiment. It did not cease to be so after the assumption of 
power by the Crown; the Utilitarian tradition was long-lived, even 
though it needed re-interpretation in the circumstances of post- 
Mutiny India. The outstanding problem was not new. It was the 
same as the problem to which Cornwallis and Munro had given 
rival answers. Was the administration of India to be government by 
law, or government by personal discretion? 

A new interpretation was supplied by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, 
law member from 1869 until 1872. According to Stephen, the 
problem was how to reconcile the rule of law with the energy of the 
man on the spot. ‘The question is between one kind of law and legal 
administration and another, not between government by law and 



government without law. The question, indeed, lies much more 
between different forms of administration than different forms of law, 
[ 6 ]. A modem state must, he argued, be an efficient and highly co- 
ordinated organization following precise rules and free from 
individual eccentricities. At the same time, the executive arm of the 
government should not be weakened by legal rigidity. ‘The main- 
tenance of the position of the District Officers is absolutely essential to 
the maintenance of British rule in India’ [7]. Stephen’s solution was to 
leave the administration of criminal law with the executive, while 
allocating civil law to the judiciary. His reasons were not new; the 
man who ruled should be the man able to inflict punishment. ‘In a 
few words, the administration of criminal Justice is the indispensable 
condition of all government, and the means by which it is in the last 
resort carried on. But the District Officers are the local governors of 
the country; therefore the District Officers ought to administer 
criminal justice’ [ 8 ]. Stephen was, in fact, convinced that a strong and 
vigorous government was perfectly compatible with the rule of law. 
‘The notion’, he wrote, ‘that there is an opposition in the nature of 
things between law and executive vigour, rests on a fundamental 
confusion of ideas and on traditions which are superannuated and 
ought to be forgotten’ [p]. 

Stephen likened the administration of India to a highly-disciplined 
army with well-defined instructions and efficient organization. He 
continued the work of law codification, relating much that had 
previously come under administrative orders with the structure of 
formal law. His attitude was purely practical, and he was little 
concerned with theories. He found the general structure of law and 
administration good, and contented himself with suggesting remedies 
for specific defects. What was really needed, he thought, was better 
training for officials. ‘Whatever may have been the defects of Indian 
government, want of interest in the work done, want of vigilance in 
superintending the manner in which it is done, want of energy and 
enterprise in improving the manner of doing it, are not amongst 
them’ [ 10 ]. 

As law member, Stephen believed as strongly as his predecessors 
had done in the revolutionary effects of the rule of law. Indeed, he 
was convinced that the destruction of the Indian village community 
by means of English concepts of property rights and the rule of 



English law was an example of progress. ‘The fact that the institutions 
of a village community throw light on the institutions of modern 
Europe, and the fact that village communities had altered but little 
for many centuries, prove only that society in India has remained for 
a great number of centuries in a stagnant condition, unfavourable to 
the growth of wealth, intelligence, political experience, and the 
moral and intellectual changes which are implied in these processes. 
The condition of India for centuries past shows what the village 
communities are really worth. Nothing that deserves the name of a 
political institution at all can be ruder or less satisfactory in its results. 
They are, in fact, a crude form of socialism, paralysing the growth of 
individual energy and all its consequences. The continuation of such a 
state of society is radically inconsistent with the fundamental 
principles of our rule both in theory and in practice' [i 1]. Stephen also 
considered that there was no need to interfere in personal law 
relating to Hindus and Muslims. The actions of modern government 
would, in themselves, create such changes as were needed. 

There was nothing paternalist about Stephen's views. The break- 
up of village communities and the transfer of land to moneylenders 
appeared to him a necessary part of the pains of progress. But neither 
did he contemplate associating the Indian middle classes with the 
administration. In this, his views made a distinct break with the 
liberalism of the 1830s, which had envisaged not only co-operation 
between the races but even ultimate self-government for India. Both 
Stephen and John Strachey - who became a member of the viceroy's 
executive council in 1868 and finance member in 1876 - accepted the 
fact that, for simple economic reasons, educated Indians should be 
given government appointments and even consulted on legislative 
questions. But both were convinced, as Strachey was to put it, that it 
would be the beginning of the end for the empire if major executive 
powers were entrusted ‘to the hands of Natives, on the assumption 
that they will always be faithful and strong supporters of our 
government. In this there is nothing offensive or disparaging to the 
Natives of India. It simply means that wc are foreigners, and that, not 
only in our own interests, but because it is our highest duty towards 
India itself, we intend to maintain our dominion. We cannot foresee 
the time in which the cessation of our rule would not be the signal for 
universal anarchy and ruin, and it is clear that the only hope for India 


is the long continuance of the benevolent but strong government of 
Ei^lishmen. Let us give to the Natives the largest possible share in the 
administration. . . . But let there be no hypocrisy about our intention 
to keep in the hands of our own people those executive posts - and 
there are not very many of them - on which, and on our political and 
mihtary power, our actual hold of the country depends. Our 
Governors of provinces, the chief oflScers of our army, our magis- 
trates of districts and their principal executive subordinates ought to 
be Englishmen tmder all circumstances that we can now foresee’ [i 2]. 

This rejection of any major co-operation from the various secton 
of Indian society soon came under attack in both India and Britain. 
Faced with a growing sense of Indian nationalism, a trade recession, 
famine, and agrarian rioting in the 1870s, Lord Lytton (viceroy 
1876-80) concluded that it was foolish for the government not to 
seek support from at least one level of Indian society. As a Con- 
servative, he favoured the claims of the Indian aristocracy. *1 am 
convinced’, he wrote in May 1877, ‘that the fundamental mistake of 
able and experienced Indian officials is a belief that we can hold India 
securely by what they call good government; that is to say, by 
improving the condition of the ryot, strictly administering justice, 
spending immense sums on irrigation works, etc. Politically speak- 
ing, the Indian peasantry is an inert mass. If it ever moves at all, it will 
move in obedience, not to its British benefactors, but to its native 
chiefs and princes, however tyrannical they may be. The only 
poUdcal representatives of native opinion are the Baboos, whom we 
have educated to write semi-seditious articles in the native Press, and 
who really represent nothing but the social anomaly of their own 

position. To secure completely, and efficiently utilise, the Indian 

aristocracy is, I am convinced, the most important problem now 
before us’ [15]. 

Although the British prime minister, Disraeli, responded in the 
same year by proclaiming Queen Victoria as empress of India, it 
made no difference to the character of the Indian administration. In 
GiCt, the government made it even more difficult for Indians to 
become candidates for the Indian Civil Service by reducing the 
examination age &om twenty-one to nineteen. Nevertheless, it 
claimed to agree with Lytton when he attached ‘great importance to 
die obvious political expediency of endeavouring to strength our 


administration by attracting to it that class of Natives whose social 
position or connections give to them a commanding influence over 
their countrymen* [ 14 ]. A special branch, known as the Statutory 
Civil Service, was formed in 1879 in which prominent Indians could 
be employed. The service was, however, abolished on the recom- 
mendation of the Indian Public Service Commission of 1886-87 ^^id 
replaced in 1892 by new cadres of the provincial and subordinate 
civil service, reserved for Indians. 

Between the years 1876 and 1880, the Liberal party - in oppos- 
ition in Britain - indulged in a crusade against the government’s 
India policy, attacking the Bill which made Queen Victoria empress 
of India as well as the restrictive legislation passed by the government 
of India in 1878 against native-language newspapers. In an article 
published in 1877, the Liberal leader, William Ewart Gladstone, 
argued that, morally, it was necessary that India should be governed 
for the good of Indians. Furthermore, he said, the British had actually 
created an Indian middle class, and they owed it to that class to 
govern in just such a manner. ‘The question who shall have supreme 
rule in India is, by the laws of right, an Indian question; and those 
laws of right are from day to day growing into laws of fact. Our title 
to be there depends upon a first condition, that our being there is 
profitable to the Indian nations; and on a second condition, that we 
can make them see and understand it to be profitable. ... It is high 
time that [these truths] pass from the chill elevation of political 
philosophy into the warmth of contact with daily life; that they take 
their place in the working rules, and that they limit the daily 
practice, of the agents of our power . . . for unless they do, we shall 
not be prepared to meet an inevitable future, we shall not be able to 
confront the growth of the Indian mind under the very active 
processes of education which we have ourselves introduced’ [ 13 ]. 

The Liberals’ opportunity came with their success in the elections 
of 1880, and during the viceroyalty of Lord Ripon (1880-84) a 
number of reforms took place - against considerable opposition from 
some quarters in India. The restrictive Press Act was repealed and 
steps were taken to breathe at least some life into organs of local 

An attempt had been made during the viceroyalty of Lord Mayo 
(1869-72) to establish working mimicipal institutions. ‘We must 




gradually associate with ourselves in the Government of this 
country’, wrote Mayo, ‘more of the native element. We have neg- 
lected this too much. ... I believe that we shall find the best 
assistance from natives in our administration, not by competitive 
examination or the sudden elevation of ill educated and incapable 
men, but by quietly entrusting as many as we can with local res- 
ponsibility, and instructing them in the management of their own 
district affairs’ [16]. The experiment had not been successful. 

When Ripon tried to give the municipal councils real power and 
initiative, he was resisted both by British officials and by the majority 
of the non-ofticial British community. The opposition, complained 
Ripon, came from the type of man ‘who regards India and her 
inhabitants as made for his advantage and for that alone, who never 
looks upon himself in any other light than that of a conqueror, and 
upon the natives otherwise than as“subject races” ’[/?]. In Britain, 
too, there was considerable opposition to Ripon’s general policies. 
Fitzjames Stephen, in a letter to The Times on i March 1883, attacked 
them on the grounds that Ripon and the government intended to 
shift ‘the foundations on which the British Government of India 

In fact, Gladstone’s policies - not only in India - were producing a 
split amongst Liberals and alienating particularly those intellectuals 
who had seen Liberalism as the servant of great political causes and 
the symbol of a dynamic and positive individualism. All this appeared 
menaced by the rise of democracy. It was this and (Gladstone’s 
apparent willingness to dismantle the empire - the Irish Home Rule 
Bill seemed the first step - which put the great experiment of India in 
peril. Gladstone’s actions and attitudes stimulated a variety of 
responses, not only defence of the ‘ideology’ of Indian government, 
but new statements of imperial purpose and responsibility. 

Stephen, in his writing, had postulated the special nde of the law. 
It was, he said, ‘the gospel of the English . , . and a compulsory gospel 
which admits of no dissent and no disobedience’ \ iS]. The operation 
of the law depended on the state’s coercive powers, which should not 
be eroded by any extension of representative institutions. The 
situation w^as, he suggested, bad enough in Britain now that the 
franchise w^as being extended. In India, if the authority of the 
government were once materially relaxed, ‘if the essential character of 



the enterprise is misunderstood and the delusion that it can be 
carried out by assemblies representing the opinions of the natives is 
admitted, nothing but failure, anarchy, and ruin can be the result’ 

Reverence for the law implied a responsibility to uphold it and a 
duty to expand its beneficent rule. The early Christian reformers in 
India had been conscious of the immanence of God and of the need to 
bring the heathen into his fold. Once inside, they believed, happiness 
was assured. This belief had been so strong that it had even distorted 
the application of the essentially non-religious ideas of the Utili- 
tarians. By Stephen’s time, however, it was becoming fashionable to 
dispute the existence of God and the supernatural world, and tliat 
fear of divine retribution which had lain behind the actions of the 
early reformers had lost its force. Substitutes had to be found wliich 
would inspire the new imperialism with a zeal similar to that which 
had formerly drawn its strength from Christianity. 

Such substitutes already existed within the British intellectual 
tradition. Carlyle had fiercely defended the proposition that might 
was right and that the principal factor in man’s religion was man’s 
work. Other pliilosophers also propounded the new gospel in which 
worship was replaced by ‘service’ and God by ‘country’. In this way, 
all the enthusiasm of religion was transferred to purely secular 
objects. The gospel of the new religion of patriotism was the gospel 
of duty, of work done without fear of criticism or expectation of 
gratitude. Its virtues were self-denial, law, order, and obedience. 

The doctrines of the new religion of empire were military 
doctrines and were based upon the use of force, authority and 
direction. In Stephen’s view, there was no widespread desire in 
India for representative institutions; if there had been, it probably 
could not have been resisted. But educated Indians were the tiniest of 
minorities, interested only in their own advantage and not in that of 
the mass of India’s people. 

Such an authoritarian view did not go unchallenged. There were 
those who thought that the best way to rule a dependent empire was 
to do so indirectly, by using indigenous institutions and manipulating 
the puppets of a native ruling class. This was the attitude favoured by 
Cromer in Egypt and other imperialists in Malaya and Nigeria. 
Cromer had acquired his colonial experience in India, as had Sir 



Alfred Lyall, who was the spokesman for many theorists of indirect 
rule. These men, and others who thought as they did, believed just as 
wholeheartedly as Stephen and Strachey in the moral approach to 
political power and its exercise. But they differed by refusing to 
accept force and military strength as the basis of that power. Nor did 
they believe in what has come to be called the Westernization of 
alien societies by imposing sophisticated political institutions which 
had no traditional roots. Lyall, for example, maintained that the 
effect of Western civilization on India was to dissolve the bonds of 
Indian society without putting anything in their place. Concentration 
of power in the hands of the British, who were indifferent to the 
traditional demands and pressures of Indian society, was producing, 
said Lyall, ‘that condition of over-centralized isolation with shallow 
foundations and inadequate support, wliich renders an empire as top- 
heavy as an over-built tower’ [ 20 ], Lyall and Cromer were both 
convinced that there had to be some compromise between the 
‘civilizing’ acts of the British and the feelings of the people, and that 
the British must therefore develop some genuine respect for the 
traditional beliefs and institutions of their subjects. If this were not 
forthcoming, discontent would surely polarize and lead to an attack 
upon the alien rulers as the only remaining symbol of authority. 
According to Lyall and others, legitimate scope for expression 
should be given to India’s princes and educated classes. 

On the surface, the theorists of indirect rule appeared to be 
advocating a policy which was designed to permit competing 
elements to cancel each other out. It was certainly not, however, 
conceived for that purpose. 

But Lyall did propose a quieter administration and the abandon- 
ment of aggressive legislation. In fact, after 1885, there developed a 
period of inertia in Indian administration. 

The growth of Indian nationalism after the founding of the 
Indian National Congress in 1885 brought pressure on the govern- 
ment of India to reform the councils. The government’s own feeling 
was that some reform was not only necessary but sensible, and that if 
something were not done Britain would, in the words of the yiccroy, 
Lord Dufferin, ‘soon have something like a Home Rule organization 
established in India, on Irish lines, and under the patronage of Irish 
and Radical Members of Parliament’ [ 21 ], 



In 1892 a new Councils Act was passed by the Conservative 
government in Britain, with the full support of the Liberal oppos- 
ition. It was intended as a sop to nationalist demands. Under the new 
Act, the provincial councils - though not the viceroy's central 
council - were to be permitted to discuss questions relating to 
administration and the budget, and the majority of non-official seats 
were to be filled on the ‘recommendation' of such groups as munici- 
palities, chambers of commerce, and religious communities. This 
amoimted in practice to a system of elections. The Act was a triumph 
of practical politics. Nothing essential had been given away, but 
some concessions had been seen to have been made. The co-Operation 
between Conservatives and Liberals in the passing of the Act showed 
that the Liberals were accepting what might be called the necessities 
of empire - the fact that the possession of overseas dominions might 
dictate policy rather than respond to abstract theories. 

All this activity, hov/cver, did not touch the actual administration 
of India. Even the matter of local self-government lay in an area 
almost insulated from the realities of everyday life. The trend of 
administration towards simple efficiency and more Western-type 
institutions was no more than a trend. Stephen might conceive the 
Indian state as a sort of leviathan, but it was nothing of the sort. 
Adaptations of practice were constantly taking place, and on other 
grounds than economy - though economy did limit the size of the 
administration. In tribal areas, a much simpler system operated, 
using indigenous institutions. The authoritarian spirit certainly 
existed in the administration, but as an ideal rather than a reality. By 
the time the last exponent of dynamic purpose arrived in India in the 
person of Lord Curzon (viceroy 1898-1905), the administration had 
become ponderous, like an elephant - ‘very stately, very powerful, 
with a high standard of intelligence, but with a regal slowness in its 
gait’ [22]. 

Curzon sought to bring to India a new sense of purpose or, 
rather, a sense of the old purpose writ large and expressed in the 
vocabulary of the new century. Like his mentors, Stephen and 
Strachey, he was convinced that India was the keystone in the arch 
of British power. He was, in fact, the epitome of intellectual imperi- 
alism. His aim was to overhaul the machine so that it might push 
India into the modern world. He believed in looking to the future. It 



was, he claimed, the fundamental duty of his administration ‘every- 
where to look ahead; to scrutinize not merely the passing require- 
ments of the hour, but the abiding needs of the country; and to build 
not for the present but for the future’ [23]. With this as the firm 
foundation of his policy, he tried to restore to British rule in India 
the creative energy of the first era of reform ; he tried, too, to purge it 
of that contempt for even the best of Indian civilization and culture 
which had corroded and helped to destroy the reformist purpose. 
Curzon believed that the destiny of the Indian people had been 
entrusted by Providence to the British. This was the lesson of the 
past, and a lesson which he believed was being confirmed by the 

The British had created - and how else but with the assistance of 
Providence? - the greatest empire the world had ever seen. They had 
been granted the secret of the machine, the power with which to 
dominate not only men, but the forces of Nature as well. It is 
difficult for us today, with our different view of the historical 
process, to accept Curzon’s idea of history as anything other than 
humbug, a cynical realpolitik explained as the work of God’s 
invisible hand. But in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, 
awed by the majesty, by the very physical extent of their dominions, 
it was hardly surprising that the British should turn to divine 
interpretations. The God whose hand they saw in all their deeds was, 
of course, a very British god, imbued with British virtues, speaking - 
as it were - their own language. Formal Christianity may have 
played little part in the religion of the imperialists, but they anthro- 
pomorphized a god who embodied the ideal of their empire. 

This view was peculiarly sophisticated - and eminently satisfying. 
It raised the British empire from a mere conquest and a continuing 
tyranny to the status of a dynamic crusade, pledged to the greatest 
happiness for the greatest number. Its motivating force was duty, and 
its purpose to construct the promised land. ‘If I thought it were all for 
nothing,’ said Curzon at a banquet in February 1903, ‘and that you 
and I, Englishmen, Scotchmen and Irishmen in this country, were 
simply writing inscriptions on the sand to be washed out by the next 
tide; if I felt that we were not working here for the good of India in 
obedience to a higher law and a nobler aim, then I would see the link 
that holds England and India together severed without a sigh. But it 



is because I believe in the future of this country and the capacity of 
our own race to guide it to goals that it has never hitherto attained, 
that I keep courage and press forward’ [24]. 

With such a creed, Curzon could admit no meaningful place for 
Indians themselves except as recipients of British beneficence. 
Indian intellectuals, Indian nationalists who claimed the right to lead 
the masses, had to be brushed aside as grit in the great machine. The 
Indian princes had to be acknowledged; their subjects could not be 
denied the benefits of English rule merely because archaic treaties 
gave the princes at least some measure of independence. But the 
peasants were the main target of reform; from improvement in their 
condition would come the justification of British rule. ‘While I have 
sought’, Curzon declared in his farewell speech at the Byculla Club, 
‘to understand the needs and to espouse the interests of each [of India’s 
various races and creeds] - my eye has always rested on a larger 
canvas crowded with untold numbers, the real people of India’ [25]. 

The difference between Curzon and Dalhousie, the last great 
reforming governor-general among his predecessors, was not merely 
a half-century of conservatism. The philosophers and theorists 
whose executive arm Dalhousie was, had believed that India could be 
changed into a simulacrum of the West by opening her doors and 
allowing English education, English morals, and English conception 
of justice to flood in. Curzon, observing at the end of the nineteenth 
century the effects of the invasion of Western liberal ideas, felt 
something of the disintegration it was bringing about. He saw that a 
minority of Indians had derived from English education a political 
vocabulary with which they could question and dispute British rule, 
but that their learning contributed nothing to help the mass of the 
people. He sought, by diverting a new generation of Indians into 
technical education, to convert them from talkers into doers. The 
ideal of early reformers had been to make Indians into liberal 
Englishmen; Curzon wanted to make them into scientists and 
technicians. He believed that, if he managed to inspire them with the 
same enthusiasm as impelled the younger generation in Britain, they 
could transform India. 

Curzon’s was a vision of startling modernity, and one which today 
underlies the whole philosophy of economic planning in the 
underdeveloped countries of the world. In this sense, he came to 


India too soon, but in the political sense he had arrived too late. It was 
no longer possible to ignore the demands of educated Indians or 
those of revivalist nationalism. The partition of Bengal (1905) - a 
sensible measure, considered in abstract and as part of a general 
movement towards increased administrative efficiency - awakened 
the fears of educated Indians that the government intended to ignore 
their views completely. During Curzon’s viceroyalty, at least, this 
was a perfectly reasonable supposition. ‘We felt’, wrote Siuren- 
dranath Banerjea, ‘that the whole of our future was at stake and that 
it was a deliberate blow aimed at the growing solidarity and self- 
consciousness of the Bengalee-speaking population’ \z 6 \. 

But Curzon’s administration produced more than political 
disorders. It had positive and lasting effect. His creation of a direc- 
torate^eneral of archaeology, and the policy of protecting and 
repairing ancient monuments, demonstrated a new respect for 
Indian culture. 

There were also significant and lasting changes in land revenue 
policy. Here, Curzon’s rule represented the swan song of the 
Utilitarian ideal in India. In 1900, Romesh Chandra Dutt - a former 
civil servant who was current president of the Indian National 
Congress - addressed a series of open letters to the viceroy on matters 
of land assessment. He sought to prove that rural poverty and the 
incidence of famine were largely the result of British land policies. 
There is some evidence that Curzon himself encouraged Dutt to 
make these criticisms so that he should be able to reply. Curzon was 
fully aware that the assessments system was by no means ideal but he 
believed that British rule, far from inflicting new hardships on the 
Indian peasant, had on the whole protected him from them. Nothing 
could have pleased Curzon more than a good opportunity to point 
this out. 

The British had always maintained that they were trustees for ‘the 
Indian poor, the Indian peasant, the patient, humble, silent millions’ 
[27]. Certainly, the same could not be said of educated Indians and 
memben of Congress at that time. Before 1905, the educated classes 
and those Indians who were members of Congress and of the 
legislative councils tended, for the most part, to be landed pro- 
prietors and men from the higher castes. They were strongly opposed 
t9 agricultural reforms and particularly to the reform of tenant 



rights. Congress, nevertheless, had frequently expressed its sorrow at 
the growing poverty of the Indian people and had suggested that the 
only remedy was an extension of representative institutions, which 
would. Congress was convinced, ‘prove one of the most important 
practical steps towards the amelioration of the condition of the 
people’. [28] 

The government preferred more immediate action, attacking the 
landlord and the moneylender, both of whom had influence in 
Congress and the legislative councils. It was determined to gain 
support from the mass of the people by carrying out reforms, and had 
earlier opposed expansion of the legislative councils, on the grounds 
that more representatives from the educated classes would mean a 
block to progressive legislation. Much reformist legislation had, in 
fact, been manoeuvred through the councils only by means of the 
official (i.e. nominated) majority vote. But the Councils Act of 1892 
had abolished the official majority. 

Curzon welcomed the opportimity to reply to Dutt’s charges and, 
in effect, to justify British rule in India - not so much to Indians as to 
public opinion in Britain. There, he was convinced, growing 
preoccupation with matters in Europe was diverting the govern- 
ment’s attention from the great work in India. 

Curzon had another reason for wanting to bring public pressure to 
bear upon the home government. Though he himself had piloted the 
Indian Councils Act of 1892 through the British parliament, he had 
thought of it only as a means by which the government of India 
might tap opinion to which no Englishman had access by birth. In 
practice, however, the Act had created a body of representatives 
whose views were inimical to the progressive designs of Curzon’s 
administration. He suspected that the British parliament, in its 
ignorance, might be contemplating a further extension of the 
representative principle in India. Himself a natural autocrat with no 
faith in democracy, a man who implicitly believed that benevolent 
despotism was the one form of government calculated to protect and 
promote the interests of the illiterate masses, Curzon knew that it was 
up to him to demonstrate the danger that lay in representative 
institutions for India. 

The correspondence with Dutt supplied an opportunity to 
demonstrate to the British public that only an administration 

G* I9I 


unhampered by quasi-legislative institutions could achieve what 
every right-thinking Englishman wanted - namely, to protect the 
interests of those who had no one to turn to but the British. Cur2x>n 
brought in an expert, Bampfylde Fuller, to draft the great state paper 
with which he proposed to demolish Dutt and proclaim the superior 
nature of British rule. Unfortunately, Fuller thought he was writing 
an inter-office memorandum, and when he submitted it to the 
viceroy, Curzon found the document ‘very long, very complex, 
very learned . . . and thoroughly confusing' [zp]. He did not want a 
scholarly and closely reasoned treatise on land revenue in India. He 
wanted a propaganda document, a paper which, in the words of the 
secretary of state, would lay down ‘comprehensive principles 
intelligible to anyone who reads them’ [je]. That, he said, was what 
was needed to satisfy public and press opinion in Britain. 

Curzon therefore decided to rewrite the paper himself and, thanks 
to his immense facility for absorbing and regurgitating facts, he 
produced a document which, with the most minor of alterations, 
satisfied the experts. Papers regarding the Land Revenue System of 
British India was finally presented to parliament at Westminster in 
January 1902. It was a remarkable document which had - and 
continues to have - considerable effect on the life of the Indian 
peasant. Hailed at the time as ‘a landmark in the history of the land 
revenue policy of India under British rule’, it signalized a funda- 
mental change in the economic thinking which had dominated 
revenue policy for nearly a century. The basis of that thinking in 
relation to land revenue was the doctrine of rent (see page 60 f ). 

In 1900, the revenue which the government of India derived from 
the land amounted to two-fifths of its total income, and the census of 
1901 recorded that some 196,000,000 people in India derived their 
living from agriculture or cattle-rearing. Though there were many 
different forms of land tenure in British India, the ‘land tax’ was not 
in fact a tax in the European sense, but a rent paid by the tenant for 
the use of land in which he had proprietary rights, subject to paying 
the assessed amount. The amount of rent was fixed according to the 
actual area of land on which rent had to be paid. This did not take 
into consideration infertile or unworkable land, or even land which, 
for various good reasons, was not under cultivation. Unlike tax, rent 
is not a variable sum. It had to be paid whether the land was used 



productively or not. Generally speaking, the revenue officials who 
most sincerely believed in the Utilitarian doctrine were also con- 
vinced that high revenue demands, unsentimentally enforced, did not 
create rural poverty or indebtedness. On the contrary, they beheved 
that low demands encouraged improvidence and inefficient farming, 
which in turn led to debt and low resistence to famine. 

But the basis of Dutt’s charges against the government’s land 
pohcies was not that they hurt the peasant, but that they discrim- 
inated against the landlord class and its satellites. Dutt claimed that a 
permanent settlement of the land revenue, such as had been made in 
Bengal, gave protection against famine and should be extended. In 
this he had the backing of some revenue officials, but Curzon was 
easily able to demohsh the argument. It was also said that high 
assessment for rent left the cultivator without protection in time of 
famine, as he was unable to divert the surplus crops of a good year 
into storage against a bad one. This Curzon also refuted with a 
wealth of statistics - thot^h perhaps the most telling answer lay in 
the natural improvidence of the Indian peasant, encouraged by his 
religion to be pessimistic about the future, and more inchned to spend 
the year’s surplus on his daughter’s dowry and marriage feast than on 
buying seed or laying in stores. 

Curzon’s magisterial denunciations of long and widely-held 
attitudes were not, however, the most interesting or valuable parts of 
his document. He upheld the validity of the doctrine of rent, but 
proposed much greater elasticity in its application. Sentiment was 
not, of course, to be allowed to filter in, but cold, dogmatic appli- 
cation of the law was to be frowned on. ‘The true function of 
government’, wrote Curzon, ‘is to lay down broad and generous 
principles for the guidance of its officers, with becoming regard to 
the traditions of the province and die circumstances of the locality, 
and to prescribe moderation in enhancement, and sympathy in 
collection’ [31]. From Curzon’s time onwards, liberal remission of 
rent in time of famine and disaster and a much less rigid approach to 
the whole question of payment became common practice. The 
doctrine of rent, thoi^h never formally abandoned, was converted 
into, a tax on agricultural income and variation and relief thus became 

The fiscal policy of the government of India began to change after 



Curzon, and the laws of political economy - so dear to the hearts of 
the Utilitarians - were slowly discarded as the government of India 
fell into line with the new trends in economic thinking which had 
already taken shape in Britain. The twentieth century, with its belief 
that taxes are paid by people, not things, was being ushered into 
India. Before 1900, land revenue had accounted for two-fifths of the 
total income of the government of India. By 1913, the proportion 
had fallen to one-quarter, and income from the state railways 
equalled income from the land. 

Curzon had not only been out of touch (by choice) with the 
strength of the Indian demand for self-determination, but also out of 
touch (by temperament) with the changes that were taking place in 
Britain. The growing pressure of the working classes for a wider say 
in the government of Britain was producing a climate favourable to 
reform - not in India but in Britain. The newly elected Liberal 
government of 1906 was moved to contemplate Indian problems in a 
very different light from any of its predecessors. It recognized, 
particularly after the belligerence of Curzon’s administration and its 
violent consequences, that conciliation was necessary and that some 
reduction of bureaucratic power would have to take place. 

The Liberals turned to the policy advocated by Lyall and, in the 
sure belief that British rule was still an indispensable instrument of 
progress, decided that it should be cloaked under some form of 
indirect rule. In the circumstances of the time, it seemed wise to 
encourage India’s moderate nationalists in the hope of discrediting 
the extremists. In fact, the constitutional reforms contemplated by 
the Liberal secretary of state, John Morley, though consonant with 
oft-repeated Liberal principles, were fundamentally designed to 
encourage support for the British regime, to create, in effect, that 
characteristically British institution, a Loyal Opposition. Lord Minto 
(viceroy 1905-10) accepted this approach, but considered that there 
were other factors in the Indian situation wliich demanded recogni- 
tion. He felt that change should not be aimed solely at placating the 
middle classes, and suggested that a council of princes should be set up 
- to give expression to other opinions than those of Congress. 

In Morley’s mind, there was no belief that India should have 
parliamentary institutions. He did not ‘think it desirable or possible, 
or even conceivable, to adapt English political institutions to . . . 



India’ [32]. The reforms, when they came, were a blend of autocracy 
and democracy - and Indians quickly recognized which was the 
dominant element. Morley and Minto, in themselves, represented 
the conflict between the liberal and authoritarian strands in British 
thinking about India. They did not, however, represent them 
precisely, for Morley - though accept^g the liberal premise that ‘one 
day’ (i.e. not in the speaker’s lifetime) Indians would demand self- 
government and should not be denied it - did not believe in trans- 
planting English institutions to India. 

The Morley-Minto reforms proposed an enlargement of the 
councils. They accepted the principle of election to the Governor- 
General’s Legislative Council (called, for convenience, the Centre) 
and in the provinces. The electoral ‘constituencies’, however, were 
still to be communities and groups. At the Centre there was to be an 
official majority, but elsewhere the non-ofEcials were to predominate. 
The powers of the councils were to be enhanced, though they were 
still to have no executive authority. Nevertheless, the area of 
discussion was now much wider and the representative principle ~ 
however restricted - now entrenched. But the reforms also incor- 
porated the invidious principle of separate electorates for under- 
privileged minorities, though in 1909 only the Muslims were 
recognized as such. The principle was not then regarded, at least by 
Morley, as a device for separating the two main Indian communities. 
It was fundamentally part of the policy of balancing interests, and 
attempting to unite moderate and conservative elements against 
extremist nationalists. The idea of a separate electorate for Muslims - 
a highly traditionalist and backward community - also appealed to 
Morley on paternalist grounds. It was still, in the early years of the 
twentieth century, a firm principle that the function of the British 
government in India was to protect those who could not protect 
themselves. The only difference in 1909 - and it was a difference 
which tmderlined the very real decline in British authority in India - 
was that it was now necessary for the government to make Indians 
into allies, however powerless those allies might be. 

The Morley-Minto reforms were the first example of Lyallist 
doctrines applied in India. Apparent self-government was to be 
tolerated as long as it was not allowed to interfere with good 
government. In its executive capacity, however, and in spite of what 



had appeared to be concessions, the government of India acted as if 
no change had taken place. When there was an upsurge of violence 
after the partition of Bengal, the government was repressive. This 
mixture of reform and repression appealed neither to Morley nor to 
India's educated youth. Futhermore, the working of the reformed 
councils forced moderate nationalists to be associated in the passing of 
repressive legislation. By 1911, the moderate leader, G. K. Gokhale, 
was demanding that the British government should declare its 
intention of helping India to develop genuinely democratic insti- 

The government, however, was much more concerned with a 
series of devices aimed at disarming moderate opposition and, at the 
same time, suppressing violent nationalism. It was first decided that 
the partition of Bengal should be revoked and that the imperial 
capital should be moved from Calcutta to Delhi. Lord Hardinge, 
now the viceroy, believed that the reunification of Bengal would 
remove the source of extremist agitation, while the movement of the 
capital to Delhi would not only disguise the concession in Bengal but 
would remove the government from a centre of extremist activity. 
It would also, by reviving the old Mughal imperial capital, un- 
equivocally restate Britain’s intention of remaining in India. Finally, 
it would symbolize the government of India’s isolation from the 
governments of the provinces and permit the devolution of apparent 
power to those governments without in any way impairing the 
ultimate authority of the government of India. 

Time was passing. The Morlcy-Minto reforms had created the 
shadow of responsible government - though it is hard to see why the 
British government should have thought that nationalists would be 
satisfied with a shadow. Nevertheless, the reforms did appear to have 
had some effect on certain of the extremist leaders, particularly upon 
Tilak (see page 283 ff). When he was released from prison in 1914, he 
acclaimed the reforms and condemned acts of violence. Curiously 
enough, instead of isolating the extremists, the reforms seemed to 
have sent them back into organizations and areas formerly dominated 
by the moderates. Though acts of terrorism continued, the 
moderate and extremist nationalist leaders were apparently united 
and prepared to accept progressive rather than revolutionary 



The war that broke out in Europe in August 1914 brought about a 
truce in nationalist agitation against the British. There was, in fact, an 
outburst of pro-British enthusiasm which in the light of subsequent 
events seems almost incomprehensible today. Many nationalists 
thought that by helping Britain towards victory they might reap 
some tangible reward. This belief was encouraged by the allied 
statesmen’s insistence that the war was being fought to make the 
world safe for democracy. Self-determination for all peoples was the 
battle cry. Unfortunately, the Indian nationalists were naive enough 
to believe that ‘all peoples* included Indians. At the time, nationalist 
demands were directed towards achieving self-government within 
the British empire, and this, they thought, was comparatively little to 
ask. Indian recruits flocked to the army - about i ,200,000 volunteered 
-and there were spontaneous contributions to war loans and the like. 
The British reduced their garrison in India to fifteen thousand men, 
and many British administrators went off to fight, handing their jobs 
over to Indian subordinates. In this way, two of the nationalists* 
demands - a reduction in the ‘army of occupation* and more, higher 
posts for Indians - were coincidentally granted. 

Indians, like everyone else had believed the war would soon be 
over. When it dragged on, however, enthusiasm waned. This was 
partly a result of the government’s inability to make use of its newly 
found popularity; intent only upon governing, whether Indians liked 
it or not, it was unable to channel enthusiasm into productive 
endeavour. Recruiting declined, and money was no longer freely 
lent. In 1916, the Easter Rebellion in Ireland helped to stir the 
imagination of Indian nationalists. 

Before 1914 there had been a number of serious administrative 
breakdowns. The requirements of war intensified inefficiency, and 
soon the Indian army in Mesopotamia found its supply lines from 
India in hopeless chaos. The government was compelled to impose 
pressures and restrictions on Indian businessmen which soon con- 
vinced them that they should - in the interests of their own 
businesses - support the nationalist movement. 

The war against Turkey, whose ruler was the Caliph of Islam, 
seriously disturbed Indian Muslims, and in 1916, Tilak, who had 
modified his more revivalist views, was able to persuade the Muslim 
League to join Congress in the ‘Lucknow Pact’. The pact resulted in 



considerable nationalist activity throughout India, and the govern- 
ment in London - worried about the course of the war in Europe, as 
Russia seemed about to collapse - decided that some holding action 
must be taken. Obviously, repression was out of the question; there 
were not enough British troops available for the task. A carrot had to 
be substituted for the stick. 

In December 1916, a new and preponderantly Conservative 
government under a Liberal prime minister, Lloyd George, took 
office, and in July of the following year Edwin Montagu, a Liberal, 
was appointed secretary of state for India. On 20 August he declared 
in the House of Commons that ‘the policy of His Majesty’s Govern- 
ment, with which the Government of India are in complete accord, 
is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the 
administration, and the gradual development of self-governing 
institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible 
government in India as an integral part of the British Empire. They 
have decided that substantial steps in this direction should be taken as 
soon as possible* [33]. Montagu also announced that he intended to go 
to India for discussions with officials and representative Indians. 

When Montagu arrived in India in October 1917, he was received 
by some nationalists almost as a liberator. It was the first time that 
any member of the British government had actually gone to India to 
find out the opinions of Indians themselves. The result of the 
secretary of state’s enquiries was published in the summer of 1918 
imder the title of Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms, The contents 
of the document have been overshadowed by the failure of the 
reforms it advocated, but it enshrined a new and quite revolutionary 
idea - that, in the words of Gladstone, it is ‘liberty alone which fits 
men for liberty’. For the first time, a declaration of faith in the ability 
of the Indian people to operate responsible self-government was 
explicitly stated. The report, in fact, rejected the strictures Morley 
had made at the time of the 1909 reforms, and expressed a belief that 
parliamentary government com W work in India. 

This idea stemmed, firstly, from the natural belief that liberal 
democracy as practised in Britain was the best of all forms of 
government (and it had already proved impossible to convince 
Indian nationalists that there might be a better), and secondly from 
the fact that parliamentary government was what the nationalists 



were asking for. If a carrot was to be offered, there was no doubt 
that it had to be a real one. 

Unfortunately, fine phrases do not of themselves create a workable 
system. The problem of minorities still remained, bedevilled by 
Muslim fean that representative government would mean Hindu 
domination. In India itself, these fean had been to some extent 
allayed by the Lucknow Pact - which had necessitated concessions 
from both sides - in which Congress had acquiesced in the establish- 
ment of separate electorates for Muslims. In Britain, however, many 
statesmen believed that in spite of the pact a Hindu majority would 
discriminate against smaller groups if it had the opportunity. They 
therefore sought to give constitutional protection to such groups. 

In his report, Montagu felt himself justified in maintaining 
separate electorates, though only for the largest minorities - the 
Muslims and the Sikhs. When his Act was passed through parliament 
in 1919, however, separate representation was extended to Indian 
Christians, Anglo-Indians (Eurasians), and Europeans. This was 
almost certainly the work of Indian civil servants who lobbied 
powerful interests in Britain. By continuing the principle of separate 
electorates, the administration hoped to keep the nationalist move- 
ment divided and to support its own assertion that the Indian 
National Congress was not representative of all the Indian people. 
When the final Act was promulgated, the government of India was 
able to relax in the knowledge that the actual effect of the reforms 
would be to leave authority where it had always been - in the hands 
of the British. 

The major change brought in by these reforms was embodied in 
the principle of ‘dyarchy’, the division of powers, encumbered 
rather than assisted by a delicate system of checks and balances. The 
central executive remained responsible to no one but the secretary of 
state in London. Legislation was, theoretically, to be the function of a 
new central assembly and a council of state, both with elected 
majorities but also with an official, or nominated, bloc. Any legis- 
lative authority which these bodies might have, however, was 
rendered nugatory by the fact that such legislation as they might 
refuse to pass could still become law by being ‘certified’ by the 

The provinces were also to have legislative councils, and certain 



responsibilities were to be assigned from the Centre to provincial 
control. This devolution covered both fmance and administration 
and the provinces became to some extent self-governing, though 
real power - through revenue legislation and control of the armed 
forces - remained with the Centre. Administration at the provincial 
level was divided into two areas. ‘Reserved’ subjects, including 
finance, justice and the police, remained under the control of the 
governor, while ‘transferred’ subjects such as education and public 
health were entrusted to ministers responsible to the legislative 

The franchise was restricted by a sliding scale of property quali- 
fications, which meant that the number who could vote in provincial 
council elections was something over five millions, in elections for 
the Central Legislative Assembly nearly one million, and in 
elections for the Coimcil of State a select group of some seventeen 
thousand. The population of India at the time was over 300,000,000. 

The period between Montagu’s visit and the actual passing of the 
Act had wimessed events in India which were only paralleled in the 
after-effects of the Mutiny of 1857. The government of India had 
begun to feel itself actively menaced by revolutionary activity, 
diough in fact this illusion was only the product of efficient national- 
ist propaganda. Nevertheless, the government felt itself handicapped 
by the existing security regulations and set up a comnuttee under 
Mr. Justice Rowlatt to enquire into what it called ‘criminal con- 
spiracies’ - i.e. terrorist activities. The Rowlatt report was published 
shortly after the report of Edwin Montagu, and together they 
made rather odd reading. On the one hand, die British at West- 
minster were envisaging some delegation of powers, while on die 
other, the British in Delhi were reinforcing their authority with all 
the apparatus of a police state - trial of political cases without jury, 
and fhe weapon of summary internment. Indians saw the British 
giving with one hand and slapping down with the other. 

The end of the war had brought back the old administrators, 
gloomy at the prospect of slow promotion after the excitements of 
war. To Indians, no longer convinced of their inferior position, it 
seemed that they brought the worst features of the Britidi occupation 
back with them, and that the Sedition Acts which follow^ the 
Rowlatt report were ushering in a new period of repression. 



The time taken in enacting the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms had 
crippled the moderate nationalists. Even before the proposed reforms 
were published, their leadership of Congress had been undermined. 
In 1918, the moderate leaders broke away from Congress and, in the 
following year, formed the National Liberal Federation of India. 
Thereafter, they ceased to be of influence in the nationalist move- 
ment. The possibility of co-operative reform was gone forever. So 
was the possibility of government by force. 

In 1919, serious rioting broke out in the Punjab. At Amritsar on 10 
April, two nationalist leaders were arrested and deported. A large 
crowd attempted to enter the European cantonment. They were 
turned away and began rioting in the city. Order was restored by the 
military, under one General Dyer, and all public meetit^ and 
assemblies were declared ill^al. Nevertheless, on 13 April a meeting 
gathered in a large, enclosed space known as the Jallianwalla Bagh. 
When he heard of this, General Dyer went personally to the spot 
with ninety Gurkhas and Baluchi soldiers and two armoured cars 
with which he blocked the only exit. Then, without warning, he 
ordered his men to open fire on the densely packed crowd. On his 
own admission, they fired 1,605 rounds before he withdrew, 
ordering the armoured cars to remain and prevent anyone from 
entering or leaving the Bagh. Official figures gave 379 dead and 1,200 
wounded. Dyer’s action was approved by the provincial govern- 

The following day, a mob rioting and burning at another spot was 
bombed and machine-gunned from the air. On 15 April martial law 
was declared and not lifted until 9 June. During this period, Indians 
were forced to crawl on all fours past the spot where a woman 
missitHiary had been attacked, and, according to the report of the 
Hunter commission which enquired into the disturbances, public 
floggings were ordered for such offences as ‘the contravention of the 
curfew order, failure to salaam to a commissioned officer, for 
disrespect to a European, for taking a commandeered car without 
leave, or refusal to sell milk, and for similar contraventions’. 

The Hunter commission of enquiry was set up in October 1919 
with fi>ur British and four Indian members. Three of the British were 
members of the civil service, and die Indians were men of moderate 
opinion. All criticized the actions of General Dyer - but in such mild 



phrases as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘injudicious’. The Indian belief that the 
old repressive attitude was being revived was reinforced by General 
Dyer’s own testimony to the commission, for he made it clear that he 
had gone down to the Jallianwalla Bagh with the intention of setting 
a ferocious example to the rest of India. ‘I fired,’ he said, ‘and 
continued to fire until the crowd dispersed, and I consider this is the 
least amount of firing which would produce the necessary moral and 
widespread effect it was my duty to produce if I was to justify my 
action. If more troops had been at hand, the casualties would have 
been greater in proportion. It was no longer a question of merely 
dispersing the crowd, but one of producing a sufficient moral effect 
from a military point of view not only on those who were present, 
but more especially throughout the Punjab’ [34]. 

Though the government of India vehemently dissociated itself 
from such a policy of intimidation. Dyer was expressing the general 
attitude of many of the civil and military in India. Dyer was removed 
from his command, but his actions (and presumably his motives) 
were supported by a large section of the British press as well as by 
members of parliament and others. A sum of jT 26,000 was subscribed 
as a testimonial for this gallant British soldier. 

It is not difficult to understand the very special place that the 
massacre of Amritsar has in the minds of Indians. In British-Indian 
relations, it was a turning point even more decisive than the Mutiny. 
Henceforth, the struggle was to permit of little compromise, and the 
good faith of British concessions was always to be held in doubt. 

Events after 1920 were no longer imder Britain’s control. Con- 
servative administrations in Britain made reluctant concessions, not 
in response to quiet and reasoned demands but to nationalist agi- 
tation - whose aim was not now self-government, but independence. 
Both authoritarian and liberal views continued to receive expression, 
in Britain and|in India. 

The Act of 1919 had provided for a commission of enquiry to 
review the working of the Act after ten years. In November 1927 the 
commission arrived in India. The date had been brought forward 
primarily because it seemed possible that, by 1929, a Labour govern- 
ment might be in power in Britain, and at least one member of the 
Conservative cabinet actually believed that the Labour party meant 
what it said about India’s right to self-government. Far better, 



thought Lord Birkenhead, the secretary of state for India, to set up 
the commission early and give the impression that the Conservatives, 
too, were interested in India - so interested as to be prepared to bring 
the date forward by nearly two years. It was this same Birkenhead 
who had been the only member of the cabinet to oppose the reforms 
of 1919; he was determined that there would be no more if he could 
help it. To ensure that the commission should be kept as much on his 
side as possible, it had to consist of members of parliament. The Lab- 
our party co-operated by choosing only obscure back-benchers as 
their representatives. The commission’s chairman was Sir John 
Simon, a lawyer wrapped in the passionless cloak of legal precedent. 
He was an ideal choice, for it was unlikely that even the vaguest 
suggestion of radicalism would ever cross his mind. 

The commission’s report was not published until 1930, and the 
new Labour government which had taken office in the summer of 
1929, under the leadership of Ramsay MacDonald, dissociated itself 
from the commission’s findings. Shortly before taking office, the new 
prime minister had declared: ‘I hope that within a period of months 
rather than years there will be a new dominion added to the Com- 
monwealth of our Nations, a dominion which will find self-respect 
as an equal within the Commonwealth. I refer to India’ [55]. Every- 
thing seemed set for Indian self-government. Labour leaders had 
actually spoken of it. In October 1929, the viceroy, Lord Irwin, 
reiterated in a rather vaguely worded announcement that dominion 
status was indeed the goal. Unfortunately, these were only words. 
Nationalist leaders were not particularly interested in them and 
continued their agitation. 

The British government still clung to the principle of slow 
constitutional reform. A Round Table conference was held in 
London in November 1930, but no representatives of the Indian 
National Congress were present - although the carefully chosen 
Indian delegates represented every other special interest from the 
princes onwards. Obviously, the conference could be of little value, 
and in fact it brought about nothing except a new stage in the 
relationship between the princes and British India. But one thing the 
conference made clear, that all the delegates (even including the 
princes) wanted responsible government in India. Congress, it 
seemed, was not alone. 


BKITISH INDIA 1772-1947 

Lotd Irwin persuaded the Congress leader, Mahatma Gandhi - 
who had been arrested in May 1930 - to call a halt to agitation and go 
to London. In return, repressive ordinances were to be withdrawn. 
By the rimit Gandhi reached the conference, however, the Labour 
government in Britain had £dlen and been replaced by a so-called 
‘National’ government tmder the former La^ur prime minister, 
Ramsay MacDonald. In reality, the new government was dominated 
by Conservatives. 

At the conference, Gandhi offered no constructive suggestions or 
solutions. He did, however, make clear his opposition to the per- 
petuation of separate electorates for minorities. The government in 
London decided that, as it could not win co-operation, it must make 
its own decisions. The government in India continued to act deci- 
sively against terrorism and civil disobedience. 

The conclusions of the government in London were given 
expression in the Government of India Act of 1935. This Act 
mcorporated all the stages of constitutional development up to that 
date and added two new principles - that a federal structure should be 
organized, and that popular responsible government should be set up 
in the provinces. Under the terms of the Act, new provinces were to 
be formed, and Burma was to be separated '&om India and given a 
new constitution following the lines laid down in the Act of 1919. In 
India, dyarchy - with its ‘reserved’ subjects - was to be maintained at 
the Centre, and the overall authority of the British parliament was to 
be siutained. In the provinces, however, dyarchy was abandoned, 
and an almost completely responsible parliamentary government 
based upon a much wider firanchise was established. 

The federal provisions of the Act had been designed to incorporate 
the princely states into the new system of government. But the 
princes would not co-operate, and nationalists viewed the federal 
proposals as an attempt to perpetuate British rule by playing on the 
nationwide divisions between special-interest groups. That part of 
the Act which incorporated the federal provisions never, in fact, 
came into force. 

The 1935 Act came into force two yean later. It was the last 
positive achievement of British rule in India. 

Essentially, the power of the government remained unaltered. The 
steel feame of the administrative and judicial system continued to 



dictate state action until the end of British rule. But the political 
struggle could hardly be said to have taken place in isolation, for it 
affected several levels of Indian life. One of the aims of Indian non- 
co-operation was to make the administration unworkable. It did not 
succeed until the last two years before independence, and then only in 
certain parts of India. The administration was, however, being 
frayed in other ways. The District Officer, for example, had early 
seen his authority diminished by the various quasi-democratic 
boards and councils. The peasant, who had looked to the District 
Officer for impartiality, had done so precisely because he was not an 
Indian and because there were other Englishmen higher up to whom 
the peasant could appeal if the District Officer failed him. But, as 
changes took place, he observed that the District Officer was being 
subjected to outside pressures; the new district board might include 
among its members the brother of the peasant’s landlord or the 
second cousin of the moneylender. It seemed to the peasant that a 
board consisting of men such as these - and the sectional interests 
they represented - would make a fair hearing of his own case 
impossible. The District Officer’s impartiality seemed diminished, 
and the peasant concluded that he could probably be bypassed by 
influential men. Nevertheless, even with these qualifications, the 
district level of government in India still displayed echoes of the 
Utilitarian ideal. 

Though power still remained unalloyed at the Centre, and - 
generally speaking, in practice - at district level, the 1935 Act was a 
tremendous advance towards ultimate Indian self-government. In the 
willingness of Indian nationalists to work the new constitution (even 
while they condemned it), there seemed a chance that co-operation 
might still be possible. Whether such co-operation could have been 
achieved is very much a matter of opinion, for the actual pattern of 
events prevented the reforms from being worked out. The 1935 Act, 
however, formed the basis of the constitution as well as of the 
parliamentary institutions of independent India and, on these 
grounds alone, can be said to have had considerable and lasting 

The Act was also influential in another direction. By embodying 
the democratic concept of rule by the majority, it rejected the long- 
standing belief that India was a plural society. The government of 



India had always been reluctant to interfere in social, cultural and 
religious matters, especially after the Mutiny, a rebellion based on the 
fear that Britain intended to use her absolute power to change Indian 
society. The 1935 constitution now guaranteed to the msyority the 
power to use its will on any minority. The Muslims saw in this a 
dangerous threat posed by the Hindu majority to their cultural 
and religious integrity. Sudi a threat could not be tolerated, and led 
ultimately to the partition of India in 1947. 

The outbreak of war in 1939 demonstrated for the last time that 
the real centre of power in India remained in Delhi, with the British - 
for the viceroy unilaterally declared that India, like Britain, was at 
war with Germany. Two months later, by 15 November 1939, all 
the Congress provincial governments had resigned in protest, not at 
the declaration of war, but at Britain’s refusal to make an immediate 
grant of independence. The record of the war years is one of at- 
tempted compromise with nationalist elements, when Britain stood 
alone in Europe after the collapse of France, and again when the 
Japanese threatened to invade India. When the latter threat receded, 
the government of India was still not prepared to jeopardize the war 
effort and preferred to keep the principal nationalist leaders in jail. 

The end of the war, however, brought two important revelations. 
One was that the British Labour government - which had won an 
overwhelming victory in the 1945 elections - was unwilling to hold 
on to India by force. The other was that it was impossible to do so 
anyway. Just as Curzon’s imperialism had been unacceptable to a 
Britain concerned with major social and pohtical reform, so any desire 
to hold on to India was repugnant to a Labour administration 
similarly intent on massive domestic change. Attempts to maintain 
the unity of India so that power could be transferred without partition 
were unsuccessful. The effects of Western ideas and Western in- 
stitutions were not to be reversed. 

On 15 August 1947, in Karachi, the capital of the new dominion of 
Pakistan, and in New Delhi, the capital of the new and truncated 
India, the words of the last emperor of undivided India were read out 
by the new govemors-general. ‘On this historic day when [India/ 
Pakistan] takes her place as a free and independent Dominion in the 
British Commonwealth of Nations I send you all my greetings and 
heartfelt wishes. With this transfer of power by consent comes the 



fulfilment of a great democratic ideal, to which the British and 
[Indian^Pakistani] peoples alike are firmly dedicated’ [36], 


Macaulay’s great hopes for a radical reform of the law of British 
India withered away in the lukewarm attitude of the men who 
succeeded him as law member and in the uncertainty of the years 
preceding the Mutiny. His vision of justice had not been restricted to 
legal frameworks and court administration. In December 1835, for 
example, he had proposed the establishment of a committee to 
enquire into the matter of prisons and prison discipline. His argu- 
ment was that ‘the best Criminal Code can be of very little use to the 
community unless there be a good machinery for the infliction of 
punishment’ [i]. The committee was set up and its report - which 
was sternly Benthamite in tone - was issued in 1838. The home 
authorities, however, rejected its recommendations on grounds of 

It was generally accepted that criminal law reform was badly 
needed. Under the terms of the Charter Act of 1853, a Law Com- 
mission was established, not in Calcutta but in London. One of its 
tasks was to draft a code of criminal procedure. Lacking any indi- 
cation of the kind of criminal law the code would be expected to 
administer, the commission could hardly carry out its task satisfac- 
torily. It asked the government of India for an opinion. Finally, a 
select committee of the legislative council declared in favour of 
Macaulay’s draft of 1835. *We have come to the conclusion to 
recommend to the Council that the Penal Code, as originally 
prepared by the Indian Law Commissioners when Mr. Macaulay 
was the president of that body, should form the basis of the system of 
penal law to be enacted for India.’ Though the select committee 
thought that various revisions and amendments were desirable, they 
did not intend to recommend ‘any substantial alteration in the frame- 
work or phraseology of the original code’ [2]. 

Modifications were made, but when the penal code was actually 
enacted in i860 it retained the characteristic philosophical overtones 
which had marked Macaulay’s draft. It was distinguished, too, by a 



new and original method of legislative expression. In the words of 
Fitzjamcs Stephen : ‘In the first place the leading idea to he laid down 
is stated in the most explicit and pointed fi>rm which can be devised. 
Then such expressions in it as are not regarded as being sufficiently 
explicit are made the subject of definite explanations. This is followed 
by equally definite exceptions, to which if necessary, explanations 
are added, and in order to set the whole in the clearest light the 
matter thus stated explained and qualified is illustrated by a number 
of concrete cases’ [5]. This clarity - and it was the pattern for later 
Indian codes - was one of the enduring Utilitarian legacies. It brought 
to Indian criminal law a precision and lucidity which were not to be 
found in the law of England. 

What was absent was the spirit which had envisaged total chai^ 
in the entire pattern of law, criminal, civil and domestic. This 
revolutionary concept would have implied such intensive inter- 
ference in the social structure that it could not have been expected to 
appeal to the policy-makers of post-Mutiny India, with the ex- 
perience of 1857 behind them. Indeed, the Law Commission had 
already recommended the advisability of leaving Hindu and Muslim 
law outside the legislative scope of the government of India. 

A general system of law applying to all classes of persons in India 
was welcomed, not least by the men who had to administer it. In the 
words of Sir George Trevelyan, it earned ‘the gratitude of Indian 
civilians [i.e. members of the civil service], the younger of whom 
carry it in their saddlebags and the older in their head’. Its effect upon 
the majority of Indians is less easy to define. Certainly, the code made 
allowance for particular Indian circumstances. For example, the 
section relating to the sale of obscene books or pictures was modified 
to permit of such items being kept or used for religious purposes. 
The section concerning bigamy allowed customary law to prevail. 
Originally, there was no legislation against child marri^e, nor 
against incest. 

The scale of punishment, too, displayed in the original draft a 
humanitarian attitude far in advanc ' of its time. Even the death 
sentence, which really applied to only two offences - treason and 
murder - was not generally speaking mandatory, it being open to the 
court to inflict a sentence of transportation for life to a penal settlo* 
ment. Corporal punishment did not feature in the original draft, but 



it was introduced in 1864 by a special Act which was followed by 
later amendments. In general, little diange was made in the sentences 
which had been prescribed in the first enactment. In the later stages of 
Britidi role they were frequently attadced as being tmdvilized, out of 
touch widi modem standards. The attacks were at least partially 
based <mi the assumption that the sentences stipulated in Ae code 
were mandatory, whereas in fact they were simply the m ax i m um for 
particular ofiences. Courts were not compelled to pass the maximum 
sentences - only such punishment as they thought fit. 

★ ★ ★ 

As has been outlined in Part One (page 72 if), the problems of civil 
law and its administration resisted codification. Nevertheless, a body 
of substantive dvil law was essential in the circumstances of post 
Mutiny India. In December 1861, a commission was established to 
propose such a body of law, and to do so in the terms of the Law 
Commission's report of 1855 (published 1856). This laid down that 
English law should form the foundations, but that the superstructure 
should be prepared 'with a constant regard to the conditions and 
institutions of India, and the character, religions, and usages of the 
population’ [4]. The commission’s first conclusion was that an urgent 
need existed for l^islation on the disposal of property after death by 
persons other than Hindus and Muslims, who were already covered 
by their own domestic law. The Indian Succession Act was passed in 
1865, and this was followed by a law of contracts and of evidence in 
1872 and other enactments in succeeding yean. By 1882, the process 
of codification could be said to have come to an end. 

The need fi>r procedural codes was finally recognized in Acts of 
1859 and 1861, the fint dealing with dvil and the second with 
criminal procedures. These considerably simplified the adminis- 
tration of justice. Perhaps the most important provision of the codes 
was the abolition of written pleadings, an extremely tedious process 
by vdiich the very simplest cases had demanded a lawyer and had 
taken at least tiiree months to reach a decision. Theoretically, at least, 
the abolition satisfied Utilitarian requirements that justice should be 
swifr. ‘Under the proposed code of [dvil] procedure’, wrote the 
secretary of state in May 1859, ‘the plaint is to be limited to certain 


BRITISH INDIA 1772-1947 

specified particulars; and when the suit has been instituted, no 
written pleadings in the technical sense of the term are to be admitted. 
The parties are to be orally examined, and they will be at liberty to 
tender, at the first hearing of the suit, written statements, confined, as 
much as possible, to a simple narrative of facts. In this way the 
question at issue between the litigants will be ascertained by a process 
much more simple and expeditious, and better calculated to a 
satisfactory result than which now prevails* [5]. 

Unfortunately, the code made no change in the system of appeal, 
which remained complicated, slow, and expensive. One interesting 
survival was the stamp duty on the institution of suits, which was 
retained partly because of the revenue it brought, but also because 
there was a well-founded belief that it discouraged irresponsible 
litigation. Unfortunately, by discriminating against the poor, it also 
discouraged responsible litigation. 

The High Courts Act of 1861 ended the situation by which two 
courts of appeal (the sadr and the Supreme Court) had existed in the 
kind of competition which did not assist justice. In the lower courts, 
however, there was little fundamental reform. The movement 
towards uniform administration of justice took some time, and 
though by 1882 the North-West Provinces, Madras, and Bombay 
were mainly operating on the Bengal principle, judicial and ex- 
ecutive functions remained luiited in the Central Provinces, the- 
Punjab, Sind, Oudh, Assam - and in British Burma. In civil cases, the 
jurisdiction of the courts remained tied to a monetary qualification, a 
system which encouraged problems and the need for lawyers. There 
was even a special brand of justice confined to the small cause courts, 
from whose decisions there was no appeal. There were a number of 
high courts responsible to no superior authority. Their application of 
the codes was, not infrequently, eccentric and almost invariably 
lacking in uniformity. There was, however, what miglit be called a 
‘discipline of justice* which, according to Fitzjames Stephen, welded 
the men who operated it into an ‘organized half-military body* \ 6 \, 

But justice could be distorted. An alien system, based as it was on 
alien moral concepts, was bound to suffer in a society which, gave 
general acceptance to very few of those concepts. Perjury, for 
example, was not thought to be particularly reprehensible. It was not 
too difficult for a clever lawyer to manipulate the law to his and his 



client’s advantage. Even the comparative speed of decision - 
normally a virtue - had profound social consequences, particularly in 
matters of debt. 

Nevertheless, lavsr was essential to the structure of a modern state, 
and indigenous systems offered no satisfactory basis. The rule of law 
is an indissoluble part of the function of government; it is, in fact, the 
foundation of the state. The British had no choice but to impose 
some pattern of law on India. Indeed, the rising Indian middle 
classes demanded the protection - as well as the more personal 
advantages - of Western law. The codes themselves, especially those 
of procedure, offered a measure of protection in a society which was 
primarily illiterate. Certainly, there were evils, some of them a 
product of the restrictions which were placed on judges’ decisions. 
There were, however, sound reasons for such restrictions. Indian 
judges were very different from British judges. They were not 
recruited from among practising lawyers. They had never argued the 
law, only administered it. In such circumstances, to permit dis- 
cretion could lead to illegality. 

The growth of a Western-based system of law reflected the 
extension of a Western-based polity, and the British supplied the 
legal framework for a developing society. The range of judicial 
legislation grew ever wider, covering everything from prisons to 
company law, from customs duties to the protection of industrial 
labourers. Most of it was concerned with creating the infrastructure 
of a modern industrial state. Very rarely indeed did the British enact 
laws which ran counter to traditional Indian ideas. Those which did 
arc dealt with in the context of social policy (see pages 94 ff and 228 ff) . 
In the light of independent India’s experience, the British attitude 
may well appear to have been misguided; but in terms of alien 
domination, it was sensible enough. 

The Law relating to Land 

Basic law relating to property and property rights remained, 
generally speaking, untouched by the transfer of power from the 
Company to the Crown. Nevertheless, new motives - both economic 
and political - brought about certain changes in land tenure. These 
applied almost exclusively to land not in cultivation. In December 
1858, the secretary of state for India instructed the government of 



India to look favourably on applications from people ‘desirous of 
obtaining grants of unoccupied land for the purpose of carrying on 
the cultivation of Cotton and of other exportable products for the 
supply of manufactures to this Country [Britain]* [7]. Most of the 
land finally granted was used for plantation industry. The secretary 
of state’s despatch made it quite clear that the authorities in India were 
not to restrict grants of land to Europeans, who customarily had the 
major interest in plantation industry. This was an extremely im- 
portant qualification, for, when the government of India drew up 
rules in 1871 for the disposal of waste land, they included an option 
permitting the people who were granted such land to pay a lump 
sum which would permanently free them from revenue demands. In 
other words, they were to be enabled to acquire absolute pro- 
prietorial rights. 

This had a political purpose, for it was also proposed that the 
right of redemption should be extended to lands already settled. Sir 
Charles Wood put the matter precisely in 1862. The security of fixed 
property, he wrote ‘and comparative freedom from the interference 
of the fiscal officers of the Government will tend to create that class 
which although composed of various races and creeds will be 
peculiarly bound to the British rule; whilst under proper regulations, 
the measure will conduce to the improvement of the general 
resources of the empire* { 5 ]. In fact, after the experience of the 
Mutiny, the governments of both Britain and India beHeved that 
British rule must rely on the affection - or, at the very least, on the 
self-interest - of the agricultural classes. The growth of a landed 
middle class appeared to be desirable development. 

Utilitarian principles, however, were strongly opposed to any 
redemption of land revenue. If the government gave up its revenue 
from rent, it would be necessary to impose other taxes instead. This, 
according to the Utilitarians, would tend to check trade and diminish 
consumption. But the proposal was killed, not by theories, but by the 
financial strain of suppressing the Mutiny and the subsequent effects 
on the Indian economy. The financial requirements of the govern- 
ment of India dictated that the existing system be maintained. 

It became increasingly obvious, however, that where a zamindari 
settlement had been made, the government must act to protect the 
peasant, and to limit rack-renting and eviction. A beginning was 



made in Bengal in 1859 with an Act which sought to identify and 
protect tenancy rights. The burden of proof lay upon the tenant, who 
had to supply evidence that he had continuously occupied his 
holding for twelve years. Unfortunately, landlords tried in the 
eleventh year to induce tenants to change their holdings, so. as to 
prevent them from acquiring tenancy rights. The report of the 
Famine Commission of 1871 blamed local officials for many of the 
injustices which ensued. ‘The administration in Bihar [then part of 
Bengal] stands in the discreditable position of countenancing, and so 
abetting, notorious abuses for fear of the commotion wliich would 
ensue if the people knew their rights and were encouraged to assert 
them’ [pj. The commission’s strictures also applied to landholders, 
including Europeans, whose methods of indigo cultivation ‘involved 
an amount of lawlessness and oppression, in the shape of illegal 
seizure and retention of land, and to a minor degree, in the shape of 
extorted agreements to cultivate, and of seizure of ploughs and 
cattle’ [10]. A modification of the 1859 Act was promulgated in 1885. 
The narrow twelve-year rule was abandoned and a wider definition 
substituted, by which occupation of land in the same village would 

The Bengal Act of 1859 -in its unmodified form - was applied 
in parts of the United Provinces until 1901. In 1926, the twelve-year 
rule was abandoned. In other parts of India, various tenancy pro- 
tection acts were passed in areas where zamindari settlements existed. 

In an endeavour to protect the cultivator from the moneylender, 
a number of laws were passed. Rural indebtedness resulted primarily 
from the establishment of proprietorial rights and the transfer of 
such rights, by due process of law, in repayment of debt. An early 
measure which did not prove particularly successful was the Deccan 
Agriculturalists Relief Act of 1879, which was passed after peasant 
rioting in 1873. By the end of the century, it was recognized that the 
land was being transferred from the hands of cultivators to those of 
the moneylenders by the simple operation of the civil law, and that 
the passing of protective legislation had had little or no effect. Even 
the authorization of provincial governments to grant agricultural 
loans had made little difference to rural indebtedness. 

In. i8s)9 an experimental measure, the Punjab Land Alienation 
BiU, was introduced into the Central Legislative Council. The 



object of the Bill was to restrict the sale and mortgage of land so that 
moneylenders could not claim land in repayment of debts. Hitherto, 
the peasant who borrowed money had had to pledge either his 
harvest or his land, and the moneylender’s position had been 
strengthened by laws concerning the rapid recovery of debts. 
Litigation was common, and the pleader, or professional advocate, 
profited by his knowledge of the law and peasant’s ignorance of it. 
The proposed Bill threatened the profits of both the pleader and the 
moneylender by prohibiting a man from selling land to anyone 
except a resident of the same village or a relative in the male line. 
Mortgages were to be limited to a term of fifteen years. The Bill was 
bitterly attacked, but nevertheless passed into law. 

In the 1 93 os, legislation intended to reduce the burden of out- 
standing debt was passed by provincial governments, but it too, in 
practice, met with little or no success. 

Hindu and Muslim Domestic Law 

Virtually no changes took place in Islamic personal law during the 
period of Crown government, because of the Muslim belief that 
legislation is the prerogative of God. 

The British interfered little in matters of Hindu personal law, 
partly for the usual reasons of security, and partly because of the 
formidable problems involved in any attempt at codification.. 
Changes did, however, take place, not through the enactment of 
specific laws - except in a very few cases - but by the application 
after 1864 of British methods of interpretation to customary law, 
after Hindu law officers attached to the courts had been dispensed 

In general, the British sought to protect customary law - even, in 
some cases, to extend its application. In 1935, for example, an Act was 
passed in the North-West Frontier Province which was designed to 
impose orthodox Muslim law on customary law, and in 1937 the 
Act was extended to cover the rest of British India. Various laws were 
also passed to give statutory definition to the customary laws of such 
other Indian communities as the Parsees. 

During the last twenty-five years of British rule, there ^ was a 
variety of pressures in favour of reform which led to the enactment of 
such laws as the Hindu Law of Inheritance (Amendment) Act of 1929^ 



the Gains of Learning Act (1930), the Hindu Woman’s Right to 
Property Act (1937), and the (Bombay) Hindu Married Woman’s 
Right to Separate Residence and Maintenance Act (1946). Though 
such legislation did affect that fundamental Hindu institution, the 
joint family, it did not affect the main body of customary Hindu 

The government of India remained, until the end of British rule, 
reluctant to interfere in the question of child marriage, though the 
penal code of 1861 had declared that the consummation of a marriage 
in which the wife was under ten years old constituted rape. It was 
extremely difficult to make such a protective measure effective. In 
1884, the government stated its attitude - and the statement was to be 
valid for the remaining years of British rule - in reply to a mem- 
orandum on widow remarriage and the age of consent submitted to 
it by a Hindu reformer, B. M. Malabari. ‘When caste or custom 
enjoins a practice which involves a breach of the ordinary criminal 
law the State would enforce the law. When caste or custom lays 
down a rule which in its nature is enforceable in civil court, but is 
clearly opposed to morality or public policy, the State will decline to 
enforce it. When caste or custom lays down a rule which deals with 
such matters as arc usually left to the option of citizens, and which 
does not need the aid of civil or criminal courts for its enforcement. 
State interference is not considered either desirable or expedient. In 
this matter His Excellency in Council considered interference by the 
State undesirable and hence this social reform must be left to the 
improving influence of time and to the gradual operation of the 
mental and moral development of the people by the spread of 
education. The Government of India do not desire to interfere . . . 
until sufficient proof is forthcoming that legislation is required to 
meet a serious practical evil and that such legislation has been asked 
for by a section important in influence or in number of the Hindu 
community itself’ [ 11 ], Even when legislation was finally enacted, 
the government preferred the initiative to come from Indian 
members of the legislative assembly. 




Indian India: Areas of Impact 



After the assumption of power by the Crown, the govem- 
ment’s attitude towards the peasant tended, generally speaking, 
-^to be protective. Land legislation was biased against the land- 
owning classes. 

The government’s attitude was partly an expression of the 
continuing paternalist sense of responsibility; partly political (at 
least towards the end of the nineteenth century, in response to the 
growth of middle-class nationalism); but principally, until other 
forms of revenue surpassed that derived from land, for reasons of 
finance. The government’s view was precisely stated in a despatch 
from Lord Mayo (viceroy 1869-72). ‘For generations to come the 
progress of India in wealth and civilization must be directly depen- 
dent on her progress in agriculture There is perhaps no country 

in the world in which the State has so immediate and direct an 
interest in agriculture. The Government of India is not only a 
Government but the chief landlord. The land revenue is derived from 
that portion of the rent which belongs to the State, and not to 
individual proprietors. Throughout the greater part of India, every 
measure for the improvement of the land enhances the value of the 
property of the State. The duties which in England are performed by 
a good landlord fall in India in a great measure upon the Government. 
Speaking generally, the only Indian landlord who can command the 
requisite capital and knowledge is the State’ [i]. 

Government action to improve agricultural production began as 
early as 1866 with a suggestion by the Famine Commissi6n.of that 
year that there should be a separate departmentof agriculture. In 1869, 
under the combined pressures of the Manchester Chamber of 



Commerce - which wanted better quality control in cotton pro- 
duction - and the newly-arrived Lord Mayo, a definite scheme was 
formulated. In 1870, a Department of Agriculture, Revenue and 
Commerce was created. Unfortunately, the attitude of the govern- 
ment in London was not favourable and ten years later the depart- 
ceased to exist, its work during its short life having been almost 
entirely concerned with revenue matters. The Famine Commission 
of 1880 recommended that the government pay attention to a 
general improvement in agriculture, in the interests of increasing 
food production. In the following year, the central Department of 
Agriculture was resurrected and provincial departments were 
established, but the emphasis of its actions was once more almost 
entirely confined to the collection of statistics for revenue purposes. 

There was, however, a genuine and growing opinion among the 
British in India that the government should take positive action to 
improve agricultural output. It was a Famine Commission report, 
that of 1901, which was once again to provide the impetus for action. 
It suggested the general need for 'improved agricultural teaching 
to the better classes; the promotion of Mutual Associations; agri- 
cultural research and experiment; enquiries regarding tillage and 
manure; the investigation of crop diseases and their remedies; 
the provision of improved seed; the experimental introduction of 
new staples; the improvement of cattle breeding; the investigation of 
cattle diseases; and the development of the fodder supply. To some 
of these subjects’, the report went on, ‘more or less attention has, we 
know, been already given; but they all claim greater and more 
systematic attention. To this end, the employment of a stronger 
expert staff in every province is necessary. The steady application to 
agricultural problems of expert research is the crying necessity of the 
time’ [2]. The ‘more or less attention’ paid to come of these subjects 
had consisted of the rather ineffectual appointment of an agricultural 
chemist and the establishment of four agricultural institutions which 
operated experimental farms on the most unscientific lines. 

An Inspector-General of Agriculture was appointed in 1901. The 
first holder of the office was a Canadian who gathered around him a 
staff of scientific experts. The main need of these experts was for an 
institute fitted with laboratories and scientific equipment, and here 
the government ran into financial difficulties. But money was to 


BRITISH INDIA 1772-19^7 

come from a totally unexpected source. An American millionaire 
named Henry Phipps, touring India in the winter of 1902-3, was so 
impressed by the viceroy’s efforts to help the peasants that he 
offered ^26,000 (to which he later added a further ^10,000) to be 
spent on any project that the viceroy considered would help the 
welfare of the people of India. The viceroy, Lord Curzon, proposed a 
scheme for an agricultural institute which met with Phipps’s 
immediate approval. Plans were formulated, and in April 1905 the 
foundation-stone of the new institute was laid at Pusa in Bihar. The 
buildings were to be destroyed by an earthquake in 1934 and the 
institute re-established at Delhi. 

The expansion of the agricultural service was impeded by the 
outbreak of the 1914-18 war, but under the Montagu-Chelmsford 
reforms of 1919 (see page 200), agriculture became a ‘transferred’ 
subject, and in 1920 re-staffing began. 

For a while, there was some neglect of agricultural matters by the 
elected governments in the provinces, partly because nationalist 
effort was concentrated more on acquiring political power than 
improving the condition of the peasant. But the overall absence of 
major improvement - despite propaganda, research, better seed, 
legal enactments, and so on - was not entirely due to the demands of 
nationalism. (It is, of course, not unreasonable for a movement 
pledged to remove alien rule to prefer to perpetuate bad conditions., 
which may be used to attack the government.) The experience of 
independence has shown that certain factors in India, of which the 
British were well aware, persistently resist agricultural change. The 
innate traditionalism of the Indian peasant is difhculty even for a 
government of Indians to influence. It could hardly have been 
expected that the British - who never lost their wariness of interfering 
in the traditional system, whether for economic or humanitarian 
reasons - could have achieved more. Though a considerable amount 
was attempted, there were very real limits on governmental action. 
Lord Mayo, whose commonsense attitude still has pertinence today, 
remarked in 1870: ‘In connexion with agriculture we must be 
careful of two things. First, we must not ostentatiously tell native 
husbandmen to do things which they have been doing for centuries. 
Second, we must not tell them to do things which they can’t do, and 
have no means of doing. In either case, they will laugh at us, and they 



will learn to disregard really useful advice when it is given’ [j]. There 
was no point, Mayo insisted, in preaching to the Indian cultivator 
about such new ideas as steam ploughs and ammoniac fertilizers. ‘I 
do not know’, he wrote, ‘what is precisely meant by ammoniac 
manure. If it means guano, superphosphate or any other artificial 
product of that kind, we might as well ask the people of India to 
manure their ground with champagne’ [4], 

Not everything the government attempted to do was resisted. 
There was ai measure of success in certain areas with the supply of new 
varieties of seed. But despite some progress, every official enquiry 
produced a general picture of continuing waste and inefficiency. The 
reasons for this were summed up in 1939 in a work originally 
prepared for the guidance of candidates for the Indian Civil Service: 

Natural environmctiU - The farmer’s disabilities that are due to 
his natural conditions arc five in number: 

(1) The uncertainty of the harvest, due partly to the vagaries of 
the monsoon, which become all the more serious when artificial 
supplies of water arc not available, and partly to frequent attacks of 
insect pests and fungoid disease. 

(2) The cultivation of crops which are poor cither in respect of 
their yield, their market value, or their susceptibility to disease. 

(3) The lack of sufficient manure, resulting in low fertility. 

(4) The use of dead stock (tools and implements) which, 
though adequate when each village was self-contained and each 
farm self-sufficient, are ineffective now that Indian farmers arc 
growing crops which compete in the world’s markets. 

(5) The use of ineffective livestock, their low productive value, 
and the heavy losses of livestock due to epidemics. 

Of these disabilities, the first, in so far as it is due to lack of water, is 
the special concern of the irrigation department. The fifth is the 
special concern of the veterinary department. The rest arc the 
concern of the department of agriculture. 

Social and personal disabilities. - Amongst the farmer’s disabilities 
which arc due to his social environment and personal charac- 
teristics arc the following: 



(1) His attachment to his land, his home, and his family, which 
make him unwilling to leave them except under severe economic 
pressure - and even then only temporarily. 

(2) The congestion of the rural population in closely packed 
and insanitary villages - originally due to the need for mutual 
protection and a common water-supply, and incurable except by 
extensive replacement, at a great cost, of old by model villages. 

(3) The absence of alternative methods of earning a living and 
of subsidiary occupations. 

(4) A general tendency to improvidence, due partly to the 
difficulty of making profitable use of surplus stocks in the absence 
of adequate transport facilities, partly to the risk of possessing 
savings in the absence of any safe place to keep them. These 
inconveniences of rural life in India, however, have been greatly 
reduced under British rule, which has greatly improved communi- 
cations, has increased security, and introduced post-office savings 
banks. But the peasant’s safe is still generally a hole in the wall or 
floor of his house or in the corner of a field; and there are still 
dacoits [bandits] abroad to compel him to disclose it. 

(5) The unproductive expenditure which is imposed on the 
peasant by caste custom in such matters as social and religious 
ceremonies, the repayment of ancestral debt, and the maintenance 
of his social prestige; and also by his litigiousness. 

(6) The small value of his assets, which make it difficult for him 
to borrow money, even for productive purposes, at a reasonable 
rate of interest. The tenant’s assets consist of his crops, his cattle, 
his agricultural implements, his women’s jewellery, liis trees, and 
his jajmani [fixed circle of clients], if he has one; to which a land- 
lord or other person with a transferable right in his holding can add 
his land. But of these the first three make adequate security only for 
short-term loans, since he can spare neither his live nor his dead 
stock for any length of time. The fourth he will keep intact till he 
is at his last financial gasp ; extensive pawning of jewellery is a sure 
sign of great distress. Trees and jajmanis make better securities 
for loans, but not all tenants have them. There remains the 
land, a good security, but overloaded with debt. 

Disabilities d'le to modern progress. - The establishment of British 



rule, whilst freeing the peasant of some difficulties, has helped to 
create others. It has put an end to the internal disorders and 
extortionate revenue demands which once put the farmer’s 
harvest in jeopardy. It has made possible the disposal of surplus 
stocks and the cultivation of money crops. The recognition of 
rights in land has converted it from a liability to an appreciating 
asset. But other developments have reacted adversely on the rural 
population : 

(1) Internal security and the expansion of cultivation that 
followed it have led to an enormous increase in the population, a 
difference of nearly 100 millions between 1881 and 1931 [excluding 
Burma, about 90 millions]. This has led to serious pressure of 
population on the soil and to the overcrowding of agriculture as an 

(2) By reason of increased facilities in the disposal of his 
produce and the increased value of land as security, the cultivator 
has become more prosperous, and being naturally improvident 
has been led both to spending and to borrowing more. 

(3) The establishment of civil courts has assisted the money- 
lender to tighten his hold on the peasantry, and has led to a great 
increase of litigation, frequently needless and always costly. 

(4) The moneylending and banking class has taken over the 
business of marketing the crops, to the cultivator’s great dis- 
advantage [5]. 

The government’s activities in all three areas of disability were 
limited, partly by finance and partly, in the twentieth century, by the 
growth of nationalist movements. In the case of ‘natural disabilities’, 
water was the great problem; under Crown government, irrigation 
works were greatly extended, and by the end of British rule nearly 
fifty million acres - one-quarter of the land under cultivation in 
British India - were supplied with water from canals, reservoirs and 
wells which had been constructed by the government. In social 
matters the government sought to protect the cultivator by means of 
a series of legal enactments. But though these did have some effect, 
they did not alter what might be called the psychological climate, 
which consisted - and consists today - of a balance of prejudices, 
customs, family and caste pressures, reinforced by illiteracy. 



Attempts to reduce the immense burden of rural debt (estimated in 
1930 to be over ^675,000,000) by breaking the peasant’s dependence 
on the moneylender were not particularly successful. The experience 
of agricultural co-operative credit societies in Germany and Italy was 
thought to hold out some hope for India, and such societies were 
introduced by an Act of 1904. The government, however, was 
basically unwilling to do more than give guidance and assistance 
when it was asked for survival of the old principle that self-help was 
the best. Where the initiative was taken by officials, credit societies 
did catch on, and by the end of British rule the principle of co- 
operation had been greatly expanded, in other areas as well as the 
provision of credit. In 1947, there were over a hdndred thousand 
societies, with about four million members. Unfortunately, the 
original purpose of reducing rural indebtedness was not achieved, 
primarily because the majority of debts were incurred for social 
rather than economic reasons. The world economic depression of 
1930 had its effect in India, and a large number of credit societies 
failed. Recovery was slow, but the development of co-operative 
societies had at least introduced a basis for change into the rural 
situation, a basis which has been taken advantage of - though not 
with any conspicuous success - since independence. 

During British rule, no solution was found for the essential 
problems facing Indian agriculture. Indeed, it would have been 
surprising if one had been. Food production continued to lag behind 
the minimal requirements of a growing population. Attempts to 
remove the burden of debt were unsuccessful, as no attempt was 
made to attack the causes, which lay in the social system itself, an area 
regarded as being outside the scope of sensible government inter- 
ference. That the produce of the soil could be increased by efficient 
management and modern methods was shown in the development of 
European-owned plantation industry. But in the field of subsistence 
agriculture, there was no profitable role for the European entrepren- 
eur and no inclination in the small Indian commercial class to invest, 
or participate, in the management and improvement of estates. 
There were, however, a few - a very few - enlightened landlords. 


Trade, Industry and Transport 

The expansion of industry in India depended on the acquisition of 



capital and the extension of railways. The foundations of a railway 
system had been laid before 1858, and expansion was very consider- 
able immediately after the Mutiny. By 1869, four thousand miles of 
track were in operation. All of it had been laid with private capital, 
though the government guaranteed rates of investment interest at 
about 5 per cent in order to attract capital to the venture. In return 
for its guarantee, the government had the right to control expendi- 
ture and operation, and to have mail and troops carried free of 
charge. It also had an option to purchase the lines after twenty-five 
years. This arrangement had its defects, and in the 1870s the govern- 
ment itself began to construct lines, but when another and more 
effective system of guarantee was evolved in 1880, private companies 
took up the burden of construction once more. 

The mixture of state and private enterprise worked tolerably well, 
but it had major disadvantages, particularly in matters of control. 
After 1905, therefore, the state slowly began to acquire private lines, 
and by 1940 nearly three-quarters of British India's railway system 
was owned by the government and nearly half operated directly by 
it. Track mileage had by then reached 43,000. 

Of vital importance to the expansion of the railway system was a 
supply of coal with which to fire the engines. Some coal extraction 
had been begun under Company rule, and in 1846 about 90,000 tons 
were being produced by coalfields in Bengal. Increasing demand led 
to the opening up of new coalfields in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. 
Production passed the million-ton mark in 1880, and reached six 
millions in 1900, twelve millions in 1917, and over thirty millions by 
1940. The growth of factory industry in India benefited from the 
extension of the railways, and it benefited, too, from the increased 
production of coa) which could be used to drive steam-powered 

As was to be expected, the railways increased the flow of trade. By 
1908, overseas trade had increased to five times the volume of 1858. 
Prices, too, tended to become equalized throughout the country. 
Railways contributed to the decay of indigenous industry, but they 
were a stimulus to modernization, making the distribution of 
imported products easy, encouraging the establishment of industry 
beyond the immediate vicinity of the ports, stimulating the pro- 
duction of cash crops, and the growth of a money rather than a 




barter economy. But the railways also brought India into the vortex 
of world trade. The consequences of economic depressions many 
miles away from India were to have their effect until, in the inter- war 
years of 1919-39, prosperity and depression in India were closely 
related to the general cycle of world trade. 

The earliest important economic effect of the extension of com- 
munications was felt in the cotton-mill industry. Expansion was 
comparatively slow until 1887 when a mill was opened at Nagpur by 
the Parsee entrepreneur, J. N. Tata, and progress became extremely 
rapid. The industry continued to expand until, by 1914, India ranked 
fourth in the world’s cotton-manufacturing hierarchy. The jute 
industry, too, benefited from the railway, as it did from steam- 
driven machinery, and in the early twentieth century India held a 
virtual monopoly of the world’s jute production. The iron and steel 
industry was founded on a sound commercial basis in 1911 by the 
sons of J. N. Tata, at Jamshedpur in Bihar, and by 1940 India had the 
largest single steel plant complex in the world. There arc other 
examples in other modern industries. 

Basically, the expansion of Indian industry was a twentieth- 
century phenomenon. A report relating to 1902-3 showed that 
expansion at that time was mainly limited to the cotton and jute 
industries. ‘Nothing illustrates better the present state of industrial 
development in India than the fact, that after the cotton and jute 
industries . . . there was only one of the manufacturing industries . . . 
namely the iron and brass foundries, in which as many as twenty 
thousand persons arc returned as having been employed during the 
year. In the preparation of agricultural staples for the market, 
employment is found for larger numbers; indigo factories . . . 
employed over 81,000 workers; cotton ginning, cleaning and 
pressing mills over 65,000; jute presses, 22,000. But of manufacturing 
industries, properly so-called . . . the most important after cotton and 
jute mills, arc the iron and brass foundries (20,674), silk filatures 
(10,652), tanneries (8,626) and others of still less importance’ [6]. 

The government’s role in industrial expansion before 1914 was 
confined to encouraging private capital and enterprise, particularly 
European. A Department of Commerce had been established in 1905, 
but its effects were not felt until very much later. The first Industrial 
Commission was appointed in 1916, and presented its report two 



years later. India, it said, was still predominantly a producer of raw 
materials rather than manufactured goods. The war of 1914-18 did, 
at least, have the effect of directing the government’s attention 
towards the need for some measure df Indian self-sufficiency in fields 
other than the production of armaments. Towards this end, the 
Fiscal Commission of 1921 recommended a policy of tariff pro- 
tection and government stimulation for local industry. 

Growing political unrest after 1921, however, diverted the 
government from such measures. It can truthfully be said that the 
activities of the Indian National Congress delayed economic 
development. During the 1930s, there was a substantial withdrawal 
of British capital from India, and the Congress party’s general 
tendency towards socialism - at least in its pubi c statements - made 
some Indian capitalists unwilling to expand the level of their 
investments. Nevertheless, expansion there was, particularly in the 
number of Indian-owned banks and investment trusts. The second 
world war helped to expand industrial production, particularly in 
materials previously unknown in India ~ hydrogenated oil, machine 
tools, basic chemicals, power alcohol, synthetic resins, and plastics. 
Although the withdrawal of foreign capital continued after in- 
dependence, it still represented 44.7 per cent of India’s total capital 
investment in 1949. 

Despite political conditions, industrial interest on the part of 
Indian nationals continued to grow after 1911. Before that date, 
except in Bombay, the British had played the major investment role. 
They had almost a monopoly in tea, jute and coal, although Indians 
dominated the cotton industry. Generally speaking, before 1914, 
those Indians who became interested in factory industry were the 
Bengalis of eastern India and the Parsees of the west. But the general 
policy of protection after 1923 and the repatriation of British capital 
during the 1930s encouraged certain commercial and banking castes 
to move into industry. Indeed, in the 1930s the traditional banking 
community of Marwaris began to dominate the cotton and sugar 
industries. One of their number, G. D. Birla, was one of the princi- 
pal financial supporters of the Indian National Congress prior to 

Although the involvement of Indian capitalists increased, the 
number of Indians in the higher echelons of Indian industry did not. 



This was mainly a result of the system of managing agencies. These 
institutions, which emerged after the collapse of the agency houses 
(see page 87 if.), began as traders but later became the organizers and 
managers of industry. The managing agency system supplied a 
pattern of industrial organization by exercising overall financial and 
administrative control over the various businesses managed by the 
agencies. Each agency also put up capital and floated new concerns. 
Consequently, though the number of industrial undertakings might 
be large, the number of directors was small. In fact, Indian industry 
was under the control of a very few individuals. The managing 
agency system was economical, supplying central administration and 
an easy channel for investment. By encouraging industrial expan- 
sion, it increased the scope of industrial employment at supervisory 
and clerical levels, though not at the level of the boardroom. 
Even so, most of the higher positions in Indian industry - whether 
it was European - or Indian-owned - were held by Europeans and 
Anglo-Indians, and Indians were almost entirely confined to 
subordinate and clerical grades. This was particularly obvious in 
technology-based industries. Such a situation resulted partly from a 
bias in favour of foreign experts and a lack of properly trained 
Indians, but the primary reason was one of economy. In both the 
short and the long run, it was cheaper to use a European than it was 
to train an Indian for the same job. 

Uneven and fragmentary though it was, the industrial expansion 
of the last quarter-century of British rule did furnish the infrastructure 
of a modern industrial state. It also, however, created a serious 
imbalance in the economy. Individual enterprises might often be 
extremely profitable, especially after protective tariffs were imposed. 
But protection increased consumer costs, forcing the mass of India’s 
people to pay more for what they bought. Increased industrial output 
failed to absorb more workers from the growing population. The 
tendency was towards labour-saving tecliniques and the destruction 
of labour-intensive indigenous industry. The dominance of Euro- 
peans at managerial and technical levels left independent India 
unprepared for development, while the government’s feeble attq;mpts 
to increase rural consumer capacity were almost totally ineffectual. 

Though the government of India in the first half of the twentieth 
century engaged in such economic activities as irrigation and railways 



in a manner unprecedented in the nineteenth, it did so only because 
private enterprise would not take on the task. The history of British 
India has often been presented as a history of great and powerful 
administrators, but after 1858 the government of India was funda- 
mentally weak. When British private enterprise felt itself discrim- 
inated against by the Indian government, it was able to exert 
pressure on the secretary of state in London who, in turn, was 
constitutionally in a position to dictate to India. Strong viceroys might 
be able to impress their will in certain areas of Indian administration - 
even, on occasion, on the secretary of state himself - but there were 
other areas where they had no influence whatever. Among the most 
important of these was discriminatory tariffs which, until 1923, 
operated for the most part against Indian industry. There were also 
the financial demands of imperial defence, and the high cost of 
maintaining security forces in India - w'hich represented a con- 
siderable proportion of the Indian budget. 

In the years between 1919 and 1939, the government gave 
assistance to industrial enterprise in various ways. One outstanding 
example - the erection of hydroelectric installations in the Bombay 
presidency -- a product of private Indian enterprise, was made 
possible by the passing of a Land Acquisition Act. But this action was 
permissive, not initiating. The government of India could probably 
have raised money for state industrial enterprise by increasing 
taxation which, by many standards, was extremely low. Politically, 
however, this might have presented a threat to internal security, 
and the government refrained. Among legislators in Britain and 
administrators in India there was, too, a distinct distaste for state 

One of the most enduring criticisms of Britain’s rule in India (and 
in other parts of her empire) is that she exploited the colonial 
economy to her own advantage. It would be more truthful to say 
that exploitation was far too limited. There is no doubt that sub- 
stantial private profit was made from economic activity, and that it 
brought some real benefit to Britain. But really productive ex- 
ploitation - productive, that is, in a nation-building sense - would 
have required immense public investment and close planning 
control. For financial and political reasons, neither of these was 



The government of India, believing as it it did that the large-scale 
reforms of Lord William Bentinck had been one of the causes of the 
Mutiny, could hardly have been expected to look favourably on 
proposals for more. It preferred to pin its faith on the long-term 
effects of British lawr, and only accepted, with reluctance, legislation 
initiated. by Indian reformers - in the firm belief that most of it 
could not be enforced anyway. One typical example was the 
progression of laws relating to the age of consent, the last of which 
was passed in British India in 1929. Laws there were, but the laws 
were ineffective - primarily because most Indians never heard of 
them. Such legislation only touched the fringes of Indian practice. 
There was no way of enforcing it except through propaganda. It was 
demonstrative legislation, no more, for its effectiveness depended not 
on the police but on private welfare initiative and the growth of 
public opinion. 

The government was well aware of these factors and it preferred, 
when it acted on its own initiative, to do so only in matters wliich, in 
the first place, did not apparently affect the social order or interfere 
with custom, and, in the second, where positive results could be 

This attitude can be seen in the development of famine policy as 
well as in labour legislation. Before 1858, there had been frequent 
famines in British India which had been tackled on purely local lines 
and with makeshift arrangements. After a famine in northern India 
in 1837, the local government had laid down the principle that the 
state should find work for the able-bodied - but nothing was done for 
those who were too old or too weak to work. 

In i860, a small-scale famine in the North-West Provinces was 
mitigated by the irrigation works which had been constructed over 
the years, as well as by the railway, which had advanced far enough 
to be used for carrying grain to points reasonably near the distressed 
areas. But the government, while willing to provide work, left those 
who could not work to private charity. Private charity was in- 
sufficient, and the local government was forced to take on the whole 
burden of relief It did so with some reluctance, not because it lacked 
humanitarian principles, but because it believed that self-help was 



more dignified than charity - as if dignity mattered to a man dying 
of starvation. The government also relied on the law of supply and 
demand to produce food. 

An enquiry was held into the causes of this famine, but no famine 
policy was framed as a result. In 1866-67 another and much more 
terrible famine struck eastern India and, in particular, Orissa. The 
lieutenant-governor of Bengal discounted warning reports from 
local officials. The law of supply and demand once again failed to 
function - the demand was certainly there, and so was the supply, but 
merchants preferred to hoard their stocks in order to take advantage 
of rapidly spiralling prices. When the seriousness of the famine was 
finally recognized, supplies from outside Orissa could not be moved 
in because the monsoon rains had scaled off the area by flooding such 
roads as did exist. Although there was no adequate statistical 
machinery, it was estimated that one-third of the population had 
died of starvation and disease. After the rains, the government poured 
grain into the area, but it was largely wasted as new crops were by 
then being harvested. 

The report of the committee of enquiry did produce a change of 
outlook, particularly on the part of the viceroy. Lord Lawrence. 
When famine appeared again in 1868, he stated categorically that it 
was the function of government and its officials to save life. Loans 
were raised to increase irrigation works and to finance extra railway 
construction, but relief projects were inefficiently operated. In some 
areas, relief was on too high a scale; indeed, it was reported that 
people were living far better on relief than they did in ordinary times. 
Though such reports were undoubtedly exaggerated, they offended 
the Victorian principle that charity was in itself demoralizing. The 
Famine Commission established in 1880 reported that, though the 
state indeed had an obligation to save life, relief should be given in 
such a way as ‘not to check the growth of thrift and self-reliance 
among the people. . . . The great object of saving life and giving 
protection from extreme suffering may not only be as well secured, 
but in fact will be far better secured, if proper care be taken to prevent 
the abuse and demoralisation which all experience shows to be the 
consequence of ill-directed and excessive distribution of charitable 
relief’ [ /]. On this basis, a Famine Code was framed. 

The code was extremely elaborate, but a great deal was actually 



done following its promulgation in 1883. ‘Protective railways’ were 
constructed, lines of little commercial profit which could be used to 
carry food to places of shortage. Before they existed, the only means 
of transportation had been unwieldy wooden carts pulled by slow- 
moving bullocks. And since famine does not only affect man, the 
draught animals usually could not be fed either, and many people had 
starved because food could not be transported from the nearest 
railway station. By 1897, however, things were different. The 
railways had been built. Plans existed for relief works at which 
wages would be fixed according to need, and food was to be sold 
at special shops at prices fixed by the government. At work sites, 
there were to be hospitals and doctors as well as places for the 
worken and their families to live. The code also made provision for 
remitting land taxes and for the free distribution of seed. 

The procedure laid down in the code provided for detection 
of the symptoms of a forthcoming food shortage, and for the 
declaration of, firstly, a state of scarcity, and then a state of famine. 
The code laid down a progressive scries of steps to be taken at each 

In 1896-97, a serious famine occurred in northern India, affecting 
some 30,000,000 people. The relief system worked reasonably well, 
and a subsequent commission of enquiry was generally satisfied with 
its operation. In 1899, however, the rains failed again, compounding 
the tragedy of the earlier years. Though the government still feared 
the effects of too much charity, an immense relief operation was 
mounted. The viceroy. Lord Curzon, who found indiscriminate 
charity positively dangerous, did, however, issue a warning in 
January 1900. ‘In my judgement’, he told the legislative council in 
Calcutta, ‘any government which imperilled the financial position of 
India in the interests of a prodigal philanthropy would be open to 
serious criticism. But any government which, by indiscriminate alms- 
giving, weakened the fibre and demoralised the self-reliance of the 
population would be guilty of a public crime’. 

A new Famine Commission, which reported in 1901, suggested 
various changes in the code in order to increase efficiency. It was 
recognized that the code could not prevent famine but that there 
were resources available to a modem government which could 
mitigate its effects. Optimism about the future was summed up by 



Curzon in 1905. ‘We may compete and struggle with Nature, we 
may prepare for her worst assaults, and we may reduce her violence 
when delivered. Some day perhaps when our railway system has 
overspread the entire Indian continent, when water storage and 
irrigation are even further developed, when we have raised the 
general level of social comfort and prosperity, and when advancing 
civilisation has diffused the lessons of thrift in domestic expenditure 
and greater self-denial and control, we shall obtain the mastery. But 
that will not be yet. In the meantime the duty of the government has 
been to profit to the full by the lessons of the latest calamity and to 
take such precautionary steps over the whole field of possible action 
as to prepare ourselves to combat the next’ [ 2 ]. 

Although famines continued - the last under British rule was that 
in Bengal in 1943 - the Famine Code remains the earliest and, despite 
all qualifications, one of the greatest examples of the acceptance by 
the state of responsibility for the welfare of those it rules. 

★ ★ ★ 

As the economic organisation of India became more complex, the 
government of India passed a wide variety of laws which included 
labour laws designed to protect the growing industrial proletariat. 
The inspiration for such legislation came from Britain. The question 
of child labour in India, for example, was first raised in the House 
of Lords in 1877 by the reformer. Lord Shaftesbury - though 
the provincial governments of Bombay and Bengal were 
already contemplating such legislation before he raised the 

On the rather inadequate grounds that no complaint had been 
received by the government, it was generally thought that protection 
of labour was unnecessary. Indian industrialists resisted such legis- 
lation, insisting that it would hamper the expansion of indigenous 
industry and that, as the Indian worker was poor, he worked as long 
hours as he could. Limitation of those hours, it was argued, would 
bring real hardship. This view had powerful support among British 
officials. When Lord Ripon decided that there must be compulsory 
legislation controlling the hours of work, one of the reasons advanced 
against it was that Indian houses were dirty and squalid while the 



factories were clean, well ventilated, and conducive to health. In the 
case of child labour, it was said that India should not be compared 
with Britain. ‘A child of eight in Europe is a helpless baby; in India he 
is almost a man’, wrote Ashley Eden, lieutenant-governor of Bengal, 
to the viceroy in March i88i. 

Despite opposition, a law was passed which came into force in 
July 1881 by which no child under seven could be employed in a 
factory. Children under twelve were not to be employed for more 
than nine hours a day. One of the other provisions concerned the 
fencing of dangerous machinery. Further and more progressive Acts 
were passed in 1891, 191T, 1922, and 1934. There were later amend- 
ments to the 1934 Act which limited working hours to fifty-four a 
week and raised the age of employment to twelve. No one under the 
age of seventeen was to be employed unless medically certified as fit 
to work. Similar protection was awarded to female labour. 

One of the particular problems facing the government of India was 
that of women’s employment in the mines. In 1928, nearly 30 per cent 
of the labour force employed underground was female. By 1936, 
however, no women at all were employed underground. 

One of the difficulties of imposing protective labour legislation in 
India was that workers were unwilling to accept what was, in effect, 
a reduction on their earnings. Even the passing of welfare legislation 
could not compensate. 

The growth of industry in India coincided with acceptance in 
Britain of the workers’ need for state protection. But sophisticated 
legislation designed to protect part of an essentially illiterate and 
extremely poor society left an immense gap between the legislation 
itself and the effectiveness of the legislation. In 1939, it was said that 
‘taking all labour legislation into account, affecting factories, mines, 
plantations, docks, railways, harbours, etc., it is doubtful whether 
more than seven or eight millions at the outside come within its 
protecting influence. The rest who constitute by far the greater 
majority of the industrial workers arc engaged in small or what is 
known as unregulated industries’ [j]. 

Modern industry, if it is to operate properly, depends on at least 
some degree of worker education. This did not exist in India. In 
Britain, the trades union movement carried out some worker- 
education activity. In India, however, the combining factor is caste. 



i.c. a system of relationships based primarily on function. The growth 
of organizations representing industrial functions was extremely 
slow, and the initiative was to come mainly from members of the 
educated classes who worked in positions below managerial and 
supervisory levels and who believed that their own position could be 
bettered by alliance with the workers. 

Though an association of Bombay mill hands was formed as early 
as 1890, it was not until after the first world war that any real success 
was achieved in forming genuine trade unions. The changed situation 
was described in the report of a Royal Commission in 193 1. ‘Prior to 
the winter of 1918-19 a strike was a rare occurrence in Indian 

industry Lacking leadership and organisation, and deeply imbued 

with a passive outlook on life, the vast majority of industrial workers 
regarded the return to the village as the only alternative to the 
endurance of the hard conditions in industry. The end of the war saw 
an immediate change. There were some important strikes in the cold 
weather of 1918-19; they were more numerous in the following 
winter, and in the winter of 1920-21, industrial strikes became almost 
general in organised industry. The main cause was the realisation of 
the potentialities of the strike in the existing situation, and this was 
assisted by the emergence of the trade union organisers, by the 
education which the war had given to the masses, and by the scarcity 
of labour arising from the expansion of industry, and aggravated by 
the great epidemics of influenza’ [4], 

The existence of labour organisations was recognized by the Trade 
Union Act of 1926. Many of the unions were merely temporary 
combinations formed for some definite and immediate object, and 
there was a tendency to form unions by factory rather than by 
occupation. There was virtually no collective bargaining in the 
sense of negotiations taking place between worker organizations and 
employer organizations. The Act of 1926 did not specify compulsory 
registration of unions, and very few took advantage of the protec- 
tion it offered union members against civil and criminal proceedings 
in return for properly audited accounts and the provision that half 
the union executive should be workers. 

In 1920, an All-India Trades Union Congress was founded, but it 
was almost entirely an administrative fiction and had an extremely 
small membership. It was subject to a scries of splits in the 1930s, and 



in 1942 had only 337,695 members out of some six million workers 
covered by the government’s protective legislation. 

Public Health 

The movement towards government responsibility for the health 
of the people in India originated in similar legislation in Britain. In its 
first stages, the movement was concerned with the health of the 
British themselves and, in particular, of the army. Mortality was 
extremely high among British troops. After the experience of the 
Crimea, when Florence Nightingale had forced the British gover- 
ment to make an enquiry into the sanitary state of the army, it was 
decided to carry out a similar investigation in India. 

The royal warrant establishing a Statutory Commission on the 
Health of the Army in India was issued in May 1859. The commission 
sat in London, and no official survey of actual conditions in India was 
made until 1872. Nevertheless, the commission’s report was horri- 
fying. Florence Nightingale was invited to make observations on it. 
The British government made what seemed to be an attempt to 
suppress the report. Miss Nightingale thereupon published her 
observations. They were expressed with rather sharp humour. ‘When 
asked about Drains,’ she commented, ‘the army in India was like the 
London woman who replied, “No, thank God, we have none of 
them foul, stinking things here !”’ [5]. Of actual conditions in India, 
she wrote: ‘Bombay, it is true, has a better' water supply; but it has no 
drainage. Calcutta is being drained but it has no water supply. Two 
of the seats of Government have thus each one half of a sanitary 
improvement, which halves ought never to be separated. Madras has 
neither. ... At Agra it is a proof of respectability to have cess-pools. 
The inhabitants (152,000) generally resort to fields’ [6]. 

John Lawrence was much impressed by Miss Nightingale, and 
established a Sanitary Commission in Bengal. But its reports wer^^ 
filed rather than implemented. Lawrence found that the local 
population resented, as an interference in their religion, a law 
banning the throwing of dead bodies into the river Hugh, on which 
Calcutta stands. He was a timid viceroy and, at this, seems to have 
lost interest in sanitary reform and allowed sanitary administration to 
become a department of the inspectorate-general of prisons! Dr. 
Tohn Sutherland, a member of the Sanitary Commission in London, 



remarked in 1866 that Lawrence was ^our worst enemy'. Certainly, 
nothing was done in India - not even for the army, on which, in the 
final analysis, British power depended. 

The first Sanitary Commissions in the provinces were appointed in 
1 880, and some attempt was made to bring modern public health 
practices to India, though not with conspicuous success. The 
government of India preferred to believe that educating the people 
of India in matters of public health was almost, if not quite, of more 
importence than positive government action. 

The reforms of 1919 made public health a transferred subject in the 
provinces. In 1937, ^ central Advisory Board of Health was 
established. Most active medical work, however, was carried out by 
missionaries. Even in 1947, over half the municipalities and three- 
quarters of the administrative districts lacked medical officers of 
health. At least a third of towns with over thirty thousand in- 
habitants had no proper water supply. Villages were virtually 
untouched by sanitary legislation. Some four thousand hospitals and 
dispensaries had been established in rurd areas, but each of these had 
to serve a population of about 62,000 people. 

Considerable progress was, however, made in the development of 
prophylactic inoculation against cholera and bubonic plague, and the 
second world war brought campaigns against malaria - though these 
were primarily designed to protect British and American troops. 

As ill every other sector of government activity in British India, 
finance was utterly inadequate for the needs of a medical service. The 
majority of Indians continued to live and die without the benefits of 
Western medical science. The old systems flourished still. Sympa- 
thetic medicine was widely practised, the goddesses of smallpox and 
other diseases comiiiued to receive sacrifices, and the evil spirits of 
disease were exorcized by methods common in the European Middle 
Ages. Mahatma Gandhi, as always, lucidly expressed the re- 
actionary element in the freedom movement when he attacked 
Western medicine. ‘Doctors arc injurious to mankind,' he wrote in 
Hind Swaraj, ‘but European doctors arc the worst of all. They 
violate the religious instinct, for many of their medical preparations 
contain cither animal fat or spirituous liquor, which arc taboo to 
Hindus and Muslims. Medical treatment fosters self-indulgence, so 
that men arc deprived of self-control and become eftbminatc. 


BRITISH INDIA 1772-1947 

Hospitals are institutions for propagating sin To study European 

medicine is to deepen our slavery/ 

Fortunately, these views were not to be accepted by the govern- 
ment of independent India. 


Sir Charles Wood’s Educational Despatch of 1854 (sec page 120) had 
introduced a new principle into governnicnt policy - that the state 
had a responsibility for educating those who could not afford to 
educate themselves. This did not mean that there was to be a system 
of compulsory education, and for two very sound reasons. The first, 
crucial one was that there was simply not enough money to provide 
even the most primitive education for millions of Indians. Further- 
more, even if resources liad been available, any attempt at compulsion 
would have offered a threat to security. The Mutiny was to make 
clear, once and for all, what would result from any apparent govern- 
ment attempt to interfere in religious matters; and religion permeated 
education, as it did every other aspect of Hindu society. Queen 
Victoria’s proclamation in 1858, announcing the assumption of the 
government of India by the British Crown, specifically stated that: 
‘firmly relying ourselves on the truth of Christianity . . . wc disclaim 
alike the right and desire to impose our convictions’ [i]. Wood’s 
despatch had been a challange to the wliole traditional order, for its 
avowed purpose was to change it, and there were many people who, 

. in spite of the Mutiny, thought it was still the government’s duty to 
' attempt to do so. But they were in a minority, and it was the Indian 
upper and middle classes who continued to enjoy the almost ex- 
'cfusive privilege of education; the government’s limited financial 
tesources were sufficient to satisfy their demands. 

Not a great deal of progress took place between the date of the 
despatch and the outbreak of the Mutiny, although universities were 
established at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. These were not 
teaching institutions, but examining bodies on the model of what 
London University was at the time. By 1859, Calcutta had eleven 
afilliated colleges, Bombay two, and Madras one. Though statistics 
were by no means accurate for all schools, they show that there 



were thirteen government colleges with 1,909 students and four 
aided colleges with 878 students; seventy-four superior government 
schools with 10,989 students, and 209 aided schools of the same 
or somewhat lower grade, with 16,956 students; twenty-five normal 
schools with 2,241 scholars; and sixteen colleges for special subjects, 
with 1,154 scholars. These numbers were small in relation to the 
population, but showed a substantial increase over the figures for 
1845 (see page 119). The missionary schools, which numbered 193 
in 1860-61, had 23,963 pupils. In the context of the time, the govern- 
ment’s achievement was considerable. In Britain, less than half the 
children of school age actually went to school, and there was no 
plan for introducing a national system for education until 1870. 
Education, indeed, was only one of the fields in which Indian 
state activity was ahead of British. 

Though there could be some satisfaction over the state of English 
education in India, the same could not be said for vernacular 
schooling. In Bengal, it was almost totally ignored - for the sound 
reason that ‘educational gentlemen from England, themselves little 
familiar with the natives and their vernaculars, were quite unable to 
comprehend and appreciate the indigenous native education . . . 
consequently they ignored and neglected the indigenous schools* [2]. 
Vernacular schools did exist in Bengal, but the govennnent acted as 
if they did not. 

Again, voices were raised in opposition to the difFusionist, or 
filtration, theory of education. Lord Mayo (viceroy 1869-72) wrote 
in a private letter to Sir W. W. Hunter: ‘I dislike this filtration 
theory. In Bengal, we arc educating in English a few hundred Babus 
at great expense to the State. Many of them are well able to pay for 
themselves and have no other object in learning than to qualify for 
government employ. In the mcantiine we have done nothing 
towards extending knowledge to the million. The Babus will never 
do it. The more education you give them, the more they will keep to 
themselves and make their increased knowledge a means of tyranny. 
If you wait till the bad English, which the four hundred Babus learn 
in Calcutta, filters down into the forty millions of Bengal, you will 
ultimately be a Silurian rock instead of a retired judge. Let the Babus 
learn English by all means. But let us try to do something towards 
teaching the three Rs to Rural Bengal* [jj. 



In 1874, Sir George Campbell - lieutenant-governor of Bengal - 
made a report on a new policy he had instituted. ‘Village communi- 
ties and individuals’, he wrote, ‘are invited to set up schools with 
Government assistance. The plan is to grant to village school- 
masters who maintain tolerably efficient schools in the native fashion 
and submit to a certain amount of inspection and control, a subsidy 
or grant-in-aid far short of an adequate salary, but which, eked out by 
fees and customary emoluments, may enable them to live. The grant 
is usually no more than from 2 to 3 or 4 rupees per month . . . and at 
this rate a little money goes a long way* [ 4 ]. The final paragraph of 
Campbell’s report revealed something of the great social and 
political consequences of the Bengal government’s new educational 
policy. ‘A very satisfactory feature of the new scheme is that the 
Mahomedans take to it just as kindly as the Hindoos. For instance, we 
find that of 36,997 pupils in the primary schools of the Rajshahye 
Division, regarding whom returns have been received, there are 
18,380 Mahomedans to 18,613 Hindoos. The higher education of the 
upper classes of Mahomedans in Bengal is a subject beset with very 
great difficulties, but there seems to be no special difficulty regarding 
the education of the Mahomedan masses’ [3]. 

Indian Muslims had not taken to the advantages of higher education 
in the same way as Hindus. When English was adopted (in place 
of Persian) as the official language of India in 1837, they had 
lost their principal qualification for government employ. Generally 
speaking, they retired into communal isolation. The government 
had tried to expand English educational facilities for Muslims, but 
had met with considerable resistance. Nevertheless, some Muslim 
leaders were aware that, if the Muslim community continued to 
repudiate the new education and the English language, they were 
likely to find themselves an underprivileged minority at the mercy 
of those who, by means of the new learning, were entering govern- 
ment service in ever-increasing numbers. In Bengal, which was 
always in the van of progress in British India, a Muslim leader, Abthil 
Latif, made a vigorous plea for English education for his co-relig- 
ionists, suggesting that it might well be in the British interest to do 
something about it - which was perhaps a little harsh, considering 
the government’s previous efforts and the Muslim community’s 
resistance to them. ‘Mohammedan education can never cease*, he 



said, ‘to have a strongly marked feature of political interest, which 
will force itself on the notice of all who desire to make the enlighten- 
ment of the Indian races the handmaid of loyalty and devotion to the 
British power. I beg you’, Abdul Latif continued significantly, ‘to 
bear in mind that it is no longer open to debate whether respectable 
Mohammedans are willing to have their children imbued with the 
principles of a sound healthy English education’ [ 6 ], It was not until 
1873, however, when a trust fund was established from the estate of 
Haji Muhahimad Moisin, that Muslim students received active 
encouragement. The fund was administered by the government and 
paid two-thirds of the fees at any English school for Muslim students. 

The incentive towards establishing English-style educational 
institutions which would cater exclusively for Muslims came not 
from Bengal, however, but from the North-West Provinces. In 
association with a number of Muslim intellectuals and British well- 
wishers, a Muslim reformer, Syed Ahmed Khan (see page 263), 
founded the Aligarh Movement, so called after the Muhammadan 
Anglo-Oriental College established there in 1875. The aim at Aligarh 
was to give a sense of community, not necessarily in religious terms - 
for Aligarh was to be open to non-Muslims - but in social and 
academic terms. At this period, such a concept was only possible for 
non-Hindus. Communal dining, for example, was out of the 
question in mixed institutions which included Hindus, because of 
caste, which insisted on rigid food customs. More important to the 
founders of Aligarh, however, was the question of religious in- 
struction. Government schools gave none, for obvious reasons. 
Missionary institutions were concerned with Christian teaching. One 
of the problems confronting Syed Ahmed and his associates v^as that 
Indian Islam had become orthodox and unyielding, partly in self- 
defence against the incursion of Western ideas. Should a modern 
theology be taught at Aligarh - which would offend the orthodox 
- or a traditionalist theology, which was inconsistent with the re- 
formist ideas of the college’s founder? The decision was in favour of 
orthodoxy, which would win and maintain the support of the Muslim 
community in general. But no definite syllabus of studies was laid 

The government’s general attitude to rural education was chang- 
ing, and the changes were reflected by Sir George Campbell’s 



policy in Bengal. In 1870, the home government issued instructions 
that ‘Government [of India] expenditure should be mainly directed 
to the provision of elementary education for the mass of the people’ 
[7]. The responsibility for such education was thereupon shifted 
from the central government to local authorities. Some Indian 
historians have suggested that this change of heart was inspired by 
the fact that, in 1869, four Indians had been successful in the Indian 
Civil Service examinations. If higher education was to lead to more 
Indian applicants winning posts in the higher reaches of the civil 
service, they argue, this would undoubtedly have constituted a 
threat to the privileged position of the British in that service. The 
diversion of funds from higher education to rural schooling, on the 
other hand, would still make it possible to control the number of 
Indians applying - as they had a right to - for appointments in the 
I.C.S. The fact that four Indians had succeeded in entering a service 
previously dominated by the Ikitibh had no influence at all on the 
decision of the home government. The 1870 changes W(TC made in 
an attempt to move a stage further towards the complete educational 
system envisaged in the despatch of 1854. If proof were needed that 
the home government’s decision was not motivated by fears that the 
I.C.S. would be swamped by Indians, it could be found in the 
education budget for 1879-80. 68 lakhs (1 lakh — 100,000) of rupees 
were allotted thus - 11.5 lakhs for 1,606,216 primary school pupils, 
and 56.5 lakhs for 303,868 students in high schools and colleges. 

This disproportionate expenditure seemed a complete contradi- 
ction of the aims expressed in the 1854 despatch. There were, 
however, serious problems involved in any attempt to correct the 
bias. Educated Indian opinion was strongly opposed to reducing 
the extent of the government’s support for higher education, and 
the government could not rid itself of the old wariness of inter- 
fering in the social structure by expanding mass education, especially 
if it meant increasing aid to missionary schools. Nevertheless, Lord 
Ripon (viceroy 1880-84), a Liberal with liberal views on education, 
was determined to extend the range of government-supported 
education as far as possible. In 1870, education had been made the 
responsibility of provincial administrations and the governmeht of 
India retained very little residual control. Available reports provided 
very little information about the state of elementary education in the 



provinces, so a commission was established to review the working of 
the whole system and make recommendations on expanding 
elementary education without reducing the outlay on higher 
education. This, of course, was the crux of the matter. A national 
education system was beyond the financial resources available to the 
government; the commission was expected to suggest the best way 
of using an educational appropriation wliich could not be increased. 
It was also instructed to enquire into women’s education, the 
municipal management of schools, scholarships, and the training of 

Eighteen months later (in October 1883), the commission sub- 
mitted its report. It found that little had been achieved in elementary 
education, although there had been substantial growth on higher 
levels. It recommended that the cheapest way of extending education 
might be by encouraging private enterprise. Certain gi'jvcrnmcnt 
schools and colleges could be handed over ‘to bodies ot Native 
gentlemen who will undertake to manage them satisfactorily as 
aided schools’. This was, in fact, a throwback to the ideas o( the first 
educational reformers, who had proposed using a Western-educated 
minority to pass on education to their less fortunate compatriots. 
Under the new system, it was intended that the government should 
retain control of institutions of higher learning but that it should 
offer no more than guidance on the lower levels; ‘having shown the 
way, it recognises no responsibility to do for the people what the 
people can and ought to do for themselves’. When the new policy 
came into operation, however, elementary education in rural areas 
suffered for the almost total lack of government control and dir- 
ection, and failed to expand in the way the framers of the policy had 
anticipated. The new policy merely accelerated the growth of 
higher education, for it was at this level that demand w^as greatest. 

In one sense only, the commission’s recommendations actually 
worked in practice. There w'as a substantial increase in the number of 
educational institutions and therefore in the number of students. The 
expansion was almost entirely urban, and in the area of higher 
education, because the urban classes had both wealth and incentive 
where the rufal classes had not. The standard of education, however, 
declined as a result of inadequate facilities, lack of textbooks, and - 
even more important - badly-trained teachers. Government 



schools were unsatisfactory enough, but aided institutions were 
frequently worse. 

In all educational establishments, there was an emphasis on the 
purely literary type of syllabus. The 1882 commission had noted the 
dangers of such an impractical attitude, and had suggested that 
courses in commercial, engineering and agricultural subjects should 
be offered by selected schools. These proved mainly unsuccessful 
because, again, this was not what most Indians wanted. It was also an 
unpalatable fact that English education was creating a large number 
of unemployables - people who could find no jobs suited to their 
qualifications. In India’s industrially backward economy, it was 
believed that any real effort to train technicians would (as a govern- 
ment resolution of 1 8 June 1888 phrased it) merely ‘aggravate the 
present difficulties by adding to the educated unemployed a new class 
of professional men for whom there is no commercial demand’ [^]. 

As ever, there were political threats to be faced when the govern- 
ment contemplated changes in education. The educated classes, who 
had at first regarded English education as an instrument which they 
might use to achieve a share in the profits of British rule (through 
appointments in government service, commerce, or the professions) 
early became conscious that their education should fit them to 
participate in the decision-making apparatus of government. Any 
apparent attempt by the British to limit higher education seemed to 
them to be a deliberate act of discrimination. This attitude was to 
come to a head in the response to the educational reforms of Lord 
Curzon (viceroy 1899-1905). 

In September 1901, Curzon called a conference ‘to consider the 
system of education in India’. It met in private, and its deliberations 
were not publicized. The conference was attended by education 
officials and members of the central government, the viceroy 
himself presiding. All but one of its members were government 
officials, and no Indians were present. In his opening speech, which 
was of great length, the viceroy examined the trends of government 
policy over the preceding seventy years. His main criticisms were 
directed against the emphasis on an English literary education, and 
the fact that plans for establishing technical schools had not been 
implemented. Part of the reason for this, Curzon insisted, lay in the 
lack of enthusiasm displayed by the middle and upper classes, but the 



British government had also been at fault. It had been unwilling to 
expand technical education because it feared that this might only 
increase unemployment. Such technical schools as did exist, taught 
only subjects of little practical value. The government had vacillated, 
and had spent its energies on proliferating schemes of doubtful 
utility. ‘The autumnal leaves are not more thickly strewn in Val- 
lombrosa’, exclaimed Curzon, ‘than the pigeon-holes of our 
Departments are filled with Resolutions on the subject, inculcating 
the most specious and unimpeachable maxims in the most beautiful 
language.’ He came to the conclusion that ‘if technical education is to 
open a real field for the youth of India, it is obvious that it must be 
conducted on much more businesslike principles’ [p]. 

On the subject of general education, Curzon maintained that the 
‘too slavish imitation of English models’ had sprung from an 
ignorant contempt for the vernacular literatures of India. ‘Ever since 
the cold breath of Macaulay’s rhetoric passed over the field of the 
Indian languages and textbooks’, he said, ‘the elementary education 
of the people in their own tongues has shrivelled and pined.’ He 
believed that something definite must therefore be done to organize 
elementary education in Indian languages. 

As for the universities, Curzon was astonished by the complete 
absence of ‘a history, a tradition, z genus loci, a tutorial staff of their 
own’. They were, he implied, not universities at all - and it was the 
government’s fault. By making an English education the key to 
government employ, it had made examinations the sole criterion of 
worth. All that was expected of students was an accurate memory. 
‘We go on’, said Curzon, ‘sharpening the memory of our students, 
encouraging them to the application of purely mnemonic tests, 
stuffing their brains with the abracadabra of geometry and physics 
and algebra and logic, until after hundreds, nay thousands, have 
perished by the way, the residuum who have survived these suc- 
cessive tests emerge in the Elysian fields of the B.A. degree.’ 

Curzon disclaimed any desire to ‘fetter colleges and schools with 
bureaucratic handcuffs’, but he insisted that there must be central 
control. He denied any inclination to create an Imperial Education 
Department ‘packed with pedagogues and crusted with officialism’, 
but suggested that a director-general of education should be ap- 
pointed to help the various educational bodies attain ‘that community 



of principle and of aim without which they went drifting about like 
a deserted hulk on choppy seas’. Curzon’s orotund disclaimers threw 
a smokescreen around his basically simple plans. He proposed to 
extend vernacular education in order to help counteract what he 
regarded as excessive anglicization. His establishment of a Depart- 
ment of Archaeology and his desire to preserve ancient monuments 
were part of the same policy. He hoped to revive and encourage the 
study of Indian culture, which gave sanction to order and authority 
and, at the same time, inhibited the political speculation which was a 
natural product of an English liberal education. 

Curzon declared his aims in his opening speech, though - like so 
much of it - they were couched in the form of a disclaimer. ‘There 
exists a powerful school of opinion’, he said, ‘which docs not hide its 
conviction that the experiment of English education was a mistake, 
and that its result has been disaster. When Erasmus was reproached 
for having laid the egg from which came forth the Reformation, 
‘*Ycs,” he replied, “but I laid a hen’s egg, and Luther has hatched 
a fighting cock”. This, I believe, is pretty much the view of a 
good many of the critics of English education in India. They 
think that it has given birth to a tone of mind and to a type of 
character that is ill-rcgulatcd, averse from discipline, discontented, 
and in some cases actually disloyal.’ It was this bcMiel which formed 
the basis of Curzon’s desire for reform. 

In pursuit of his aim to encourage the vernaculars, Curzon placed 
great emphasis on the importance of elementary education. The 
English language was all very well for universities, he said, ‘but for 
the vast bulk it is a foreign tongue which they do not speak and rarely 
hear’. The need to extend government influence over the masses 
seemed essential to Curzon. The activities of political extremists had 
convinced him that an educated minority would be able, when it so 
desired, to manipulate the illiterate majority for political purposes, 
just because that minority was ignorant and uneducated. The 
consequences of seditious activity would, he believed, be lessciii d if 
the government could inhibit the growth of the English-educ ated 
minority while, at the same time, educating the masses. ‘Wjiat’, he 
demanded, ‘is the greatest danger in India? What is the source of 
suspicion, superstition, outbreaks, crimes - yes, and also of the 
agrarian discontent and suffering among the masses? It is ignorance. 



And what is the only antidote to ignorance? Knowledge. In pro- 
portion as wc teach the masses, so we should make their lot happier, 
and in proportion as they are happier, so they will become useful 
members of the body politic’ [i(?]. 

Curzon also sought to insert strictly Indian studies into the 
curriculum of higher education by making them compulsory 
subjects. He hoped, too, to divert Indian students from a purely 
literary education by establishing faculties of science. He emphasized 
the importance of teacher training, hoping to create a separate and 
specialized profession through which the government could 
exercise control and discipline. Training colleges were, in fact, 
established, but the number of properly qualified teachers did not 
increase at the expected rate. The profession of teacliing had no great 
appeal for young Indians, since the rewards were generally very low 
and the profession had no social status to offset this disadvantage. 

Some years earlier, the government had evolved a technique - 
designed primarily to prevent Indianization at the higher levels of the 
civil service ~ of creating other types of government employment. 
One of these had been the engineering branch of the Public Works 
Department. As far back as 1876, the home government had advised 
the viceroy of the time that such engineering colleges as existed in 
India should be reserved for the ‘wants of natives of India’ rather than 
for the ‘persons of European parentage’ who then formed the 
majority of students attending such colleges[i j]. The word ‘native’ 
had always been somewhat ambiguously defined, and the govern- 
ment of India had chosen to take it as including Eurasians - largely 
because Eurasians already filled most Public Works Department 
posts, and the government was anxious to preserve for them some 
form of privileged status. Unfortunately, in 1882, the secretary of 
state sabotaged the government of India by announcing that ‘natives’ 
meant ‘persons of pure Asiatic origin’ [ 12 ], The original principle of 
creating new types of government employment, however, seemed 
to Curzon to be a rational idea and he tried to put it into practice. 

By expanding technical education, Curzon hoped to encourage 
private enterprise to employ Indians at technical levels. Almost all 
manufacturing industry in India at that time was managed by Euro- 
peans who, in the words of the Madras Chamber of Commerce, 
‘when requiring men with expert knowledge for responsible posts . . . 



would almost certainly prefer to employ a European, whose 
capacity and general reliability they could better form an opinion of' 
[jj]. In a partial attempt to overcome this, Curzon instituted state 
scholarships so that Indians could study abroad for higher technical 
qualifications than could be 'achieved in India. Aware, too, that any 
expansion of technical education would only increase unemploy- 
ment unless it was co-ordinated with real industrial development, he 
set about promoting the improvement of existing native industries 
and encouraging the development of new industries wherever 
possible. Curzon’s efforts to promote technical education were, 
however, productive of little tangible result, and it was to be left to 
Indian industrial and political leaders (such as the Parsee iron and 
steel firm of Tata) to take the real initiative in advancing the study of 
science and technology. 

The Simla education conference finally broke up, after agreeing to 
150 resolutions - each of which had been drafted by the viceroy 
himself. Though the deliberations had not been made public, 
Curzon’s opening speech had been reported and, on the whole, the 
majority of educated Indians welcomed the viceroy's proposals for 
education reform. 

During the conference, Curzon had decided that the problem of 
the universities should be given separate and public consideration. A 
University Commission was therefore set up in January 1902 and 
given the widest powers of enquiry into all aspects of university 
administration. It was instructed to recommend such measures as 
might tend to ‘elevate the standard of university teaching and to 
promote the advancement of learning'. The commission was 
presided over by Thomas Raleigh, then Legal Member of the 
viceroy's executive council. The members of the commission 
included a Muslim who was Director of Public Instruction in the 
princely state of Hyderabad, and a Hindu judge of the Calcutta 
High Court was later appointed when Hindus complained that their 
community was not represented. 

The commission's report was presented in June 1902, and the 
Indian educated classes suddenly became aware that their status was 
in danger. ‘The Town Hall and the Senate Hall of the University [of 
Calcutta] have been packed with shouting and perspiring graduates,' 
wrote Curzon to the secretary of state, ‘and my name has been 



loudly hissed as the author of the doom of higher education in India. 
But when, towards the end of 1903, the precise nature of Curzon’s 
proposals for university reform became known, the opposition of 
educated Indians - particularly those in Bengal - almost reached the 
stage of hysteria. 

The main accusation levelled against the proposals was that they 
would make the universities into a department of state, placing them 
- according to G. K. Gokhale, one of the nationalist leaders - under 
‘the narrow^ bigoted . . . rule of experts’. This charge was not 
altogether imfounded. But the real fear of the educated classes was 
that they might lose their own predominant influence in the insti- 
tutions of higher education. They were convinced that the govern- 
ment intended to restrict the opportunities for higher education 
open to young Indians. Contemporary apologists for Curzon denied 
this, maintaining that the sole purpose of the reforms was to improve 
the universities by making them places of learning rather than of 
examination. Certainly, this tms one of Curzon’s aims. 

Before the Curzon reforms, university organization had left a 
great deal to be desired. The senates of these institutions were mainly 
composed of people with personal or official influence. They were 
also excessively large. In Calcutta, the senate consisted of 180 
members, most of them with extremely dubious academic quali- 
fications. Bombay was even worse; there, the senate numbered 310. 
Nor did the award of fellowships bear much relation to scholarship. 
In Bombay, for example, there were fellows of the university who 
could not sign their own names. But the most serious complaint was 
that the universities were not teaching institutions at all. They were 
merely places where students from affiliated colleges sat examina- 
tions. The standard of the students themselves - and, possibly, the 
Olympian detachment of the examiners who set the papers - can be 
judged by the fict that, in one year at Madras, four-fifths of the 
students who had been certified by their teachers as of university 
standard failed to pass the entrance examination. I'lie Universities 
Bill WMS designed, according to Curzon, ‘to stop the sacrifice of 
everything in the colleges w'hich constitute our University system to 
cramming, to bring about better teaching by a superior class of 
teachers, to provide for closer inspection of colleges and institutions 
which arc now left practically alone, to place the government of the 




Universities in competent, expert, and enthusiastic hands, to 
reconstitute the Senates, to define and regulate the powers of the 
Syndicates, to give statutory recognition to the Fellows, who are 
now only appointed on sufferance ... to show the way by which 
our Universities, which are now merely examining Boards, can 
ultimately be converted into teaching institutions; in fact, to 
convert higher education in India into a reality instead of a sham’ 

In pursuit of these aims, the senates were to be reformed, the 
number of fellows fixed at one hundred and their period of tenure 
restricted to five years. But what really enraged educated Indians was 
the provision which vested in the government the right of ultimate 
decision on the recognition of schools and the affiliation, or dis- 
affiliation, of colleges. The colleges were thus to be subject to 
government inspection and would have to comply with govern- 
ment conditions in respect of their governing bodies, the quali- 
fications of their teaching staff, their financial situation, the standard 
of their buildings and accommodation, the adequacy of their 
libraries, and their facilities for practical instruction in science. 

Educated Indians claimed that, by these means, the government 
proposed to restrict the number of students receiving higher 
education. They were, in fact, right. The university reforms re- 
presented an attempt to reduce - by legislative action - the output of 
Western-educated Indians, and, in consequence, the number of 
unemployed. The attempt was not successful; the number of 
students was not reduced, nor was the number who failed their 

Nevertheless, Curzon’s reforms did have important consequences. 
They prepared the way for converting Indian universities into 
teaching institutions. In 1917, the Sadler Commission tried formally 
to implement Ciirzon’s proposals, recommending that students 
should receive instruction from university staffs. It proved impos- 
sible in practice to do away with the system of affiliated colleges, but 
an attempt was made to reduce them to manageable proportions by 
founding new universities. Curzon, too, was responsible for the 
innovation of science as a separate subject with a separate dt-*grcc, 
although the movement towards science subjects was slow in India - 
as, indeed, it was in Britain. In the first decade of the present century 



in India, 85 per cent of students graduating did so in arts, 9 per cent in 
medicine, 4 per cent in engineering, and only 2 per cent in science. 
Teacher training, too, failed to produce anything like the number of 
teachers required. The number of college students, however, 
continued to increase - from 17,356 in 1907 to 61,200 in 1917. In 
secondary schools, the number of pupils rose from 473,000 to 

This growth resulted principally from the increased social and 
economic pressure on the Hindu middle classes. Population increase 
played an important part. The openings for employment had grown, 
but so had the competition, and the competition came not only from 
members of the Hindu middle classes, but also from Muslims and 
lower-caste Hindus. Tht number of students grew, and the number 
of educated unemployed grew. Most of them had hoped for jobs in 
the professions, but few could be absorbed and the type of education 
they had chosen rarely provided them with qualifications for other 
more technical appointments. The government was aware of this 
and tried to divert the flow of students into technical colleges. Their 
attempts were not successful, however, for such institutions did not 
have the social cachet of universities. Criticisms that the government 
did not do enough for technical education were valid, but the 
government was hamstrung by limited resources. Although 
independent schools were established to give instruction - much of it 
very inadequate - in a variety of technical and semi-technical 
subjects, the whole educational system was clearly out of control. 
Lines had undoubtedly been laid down, but very little ran along 

The government and its finances were only partially to blame. 
What might be called the subterranean results of British rule were, in 
the twentieth century, beginning to come to the surface. Political 
change in India had come about at speed, but social and economic 
change lagged perceptibly behind. In effect, two civilizations were 
rubbing together, producing areas of inflammation. 

In the case of education, the effects can best be seen in the conditions 
which followed the implementation of the Montagu-Chelmsford 
reforms in 1921. These reforms were designed to create a measure of 
self-government in India, by means of the system known as ‘dy- 
archy'. It was based on a division of responsibilities between the 



provincial governors (the executive authority) and elected assem- 
blies; a number of ‘subjects’ were ‘transferred’ to popularly elected 
ministers. One of the ‘transferred’ subjects was education. At the 
time, there was economic recession following the end of the first 
world war. There was, too, grave political disorder, for the principal 
nationalist movement. Congress, was determined to prevent the new 
constitution from working efficiently. One of its tactics was to 
boycott government schools and to establish in their place ‘national’ 
schools in which Hindi was the language of instruction. Certainly, 
Congress succeeded in draining students away from government 
institutions, but it was unable to supply any constructive alternative. 
The boycott lasted for two or three years, and was followed by 
a massive return to orthodox educational institutions - with the 
result that an already inadequate system became quite unfitted 
to fulfil even its minimal purpose. The transfer of responsibility for 
education to the provincial assemblies only increased the confusion 
and chaos. 

As early as 1924, a conference of Indian universities set up an 
inter-university board to establish, among other things, standard- 
ization of academic qualifications; it also discussed the exchange of 
professors, and general co-ordination of the work of universities. All 
these matters undoubtedly needed attention, but very little was in 
fact done. 

In 1935, the government of India created a Central Advisory 
Board of Education, whose primary purpose was to evolve an 
integrated educational policy covering all levels and having at least 
some relevance to graduate employment. In the course of its 
researches, the board carried out an enquiry into vocational edu- 
cation. Its report was issued in 1937 and greatly influenced the 
deliberations of a conmiittee set up soon after by the Indian National 
Congress to examine the question of education. The committee’s 
conclusions were put into practice by Congress governments in the 
provinces, but the result of attempts to mix vocational with general 
education was that both types suffered. 

During the last years of British rule in India, educational facilities 
continued to expand. The number of colleges offering higher 
education increased from 425 in 1940-41 to 593 in 1945-46. But, 
principally because of the chronic shortage of money, general 



education still lagged behind. A really adequate system would have 
demanded compulsory attendance - which was in fact tried experi- 
mentally in some areas - and it had been calculated in 1936 that 
compulsory education for India’s 53,000,000 children would have 
cost between five and six times as much as the total revenue of the 
government of India. Although this calculation was based on the 
current education costs of England and Wales (and it could be 
assumed that expenditure would be much lower per head in India), 
the sum involved remained financially impossible. 

Finance was always the rock on which any plan for extending 
education foundered. Idealism, a genuine desire to impart the 
benefits of some sort of purposeful education, always figured in the 
plans of the government. Unfortunately, the realities of alien rule 
permitted only the most partial expression of such ideas. There were 
any number of grand designs, inspired by both moral and political 
motives, but they were all vitiated by lack of money and by the fact 
that, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the British 
were no longer sure of what they wanted to do in India. The immense 
self-confidence of the early educational reformers had evaporated, 
not so much because of the Indian experience as because of the wider 
threat being posed to Britain by new and more virile imperialist 
nations. Nevertheless, although her purpose was being eroded by 
doubt, Britain’s attitude had become almost irrelevant in the 
context of the cumulative effects of English education in India. 

What were these effects? If one of the primary functions of 
education is the expansion of literacy, then very little had apparently 
been achieved by the end of British rule. In 1947, about 90 per cent of 
the population was still unable to read or write. Although reasonably 
accurate, this figure needs clarification. Between 1881 and 1931, for 
example, the population increased by nearly 100,000,000; at the 
same time, the number of literates also increased significantly. Yet 
the total percentage of literates remained roughly constant, because 
the spread of education only just managed to keep up with the 
increase in population. More was not achieved because of the dead 
hand of finance and the active fear that compulsion might lead to 
civil disorder. Even in those areas where experiments were made with 
compulsory elementary education in the last twenty years of British 
rule, the results were unsatisfactory. In rural areas, the Indian child 



plays an important ancillary role in the work of the family. Com- 
pulsory attendance at school deprived the family of part of its labour 
and the simple education the child received bore no relevance to the 
economic realities of rural life. Fundamentally, the direct effects of 
British educational policy on the rural masses were negligible. 

The effect upon the middle classes - themselves partly created by 
English education - was very different. In the first place, the lack of 
caste discrimination at government-controlled, English-style edu- 
cational institutions finally broke the intellectual monopoly of the 
Brahmin castes, creating a professional class of lawyers, doctors, 
engineers and so on, for whom caste had no particular relevance and 
who generally supported Western-style political reforms. English 
education also encouraged a certain amount of occupational mobility 
which helped to shake established social customs. English education 
did not create nationalism - which would, in any case, have emerged 
as part of the general response to alien domination - but it did 
stimulate it and give it Western definitions and Western aims. 

The English language was the sole medium of higher education in 
India, and it gave a sense of identity to those who used it. But it also 
petrified native languages, which remained unmodemized, their 
vocabulary detached from the needs of the contemporary world. 
During British rule, the only attempt made to bring an Indian 
language up to date was made, not in British India, but at the 
Osmania university in the princely state of Hyderabad, where the 
language of instruction was Urdu. It was found necessary to invent 
over forty-thousand technical words. The demands of learning 
English- often proved a real handicap to the assimilation of ideas, 
forcing students to understand and express themselves in a language 
they did not use in everyday life. The educated classes found them- 
selves at odds with the reality of their environment. In matters of 
politics and commerce, they thought in English; in their domestic 
lives, in their native language. The inevitable results were conflict, 
anxiety, and - to use a psychiatric word - alienation. 

The British did not censor the materials of education, and the 
government of India rarely made any attempt to control the 
dissemination of liberal ideas. Indeed, in the early years of educa- 
tional reform, it deliberately encouraged them. Except forCurzon's 
unsuccessful attempt to change course, there was no real alteration 



even in face of an aggressive nationalism. One of the results was that, 
when India became independent of Britain, her political ideas were 
what can only be described as those of a Victorian radical - ideas 
essentially ill-adapted to the needs of an independent India, and to the 
times. The emphasis on an almost exclusively literary education - for 
which Indians must share the blame - left India without any scienti- 
fically-biased educated class capable of playing a vital role when the 
time came, after 1947, to begin the modernization of the country. 
After independence, even, much of the substructure of a vastly (and 
over-hurriedly) expanded system of higher education remained 
British in inspiration. In spite of increasingly wider opportunities in 
industry and commerce and the growth of technical education, the 
slant is still towards arts subjects. 

English education multiplied the sources of individual discontent, 
creating a ruthlessness which found one outlet in extremism. During 
British rule, that extremism could be given a nationalist purpose and 
directed into channels which could, at least, be called patriotic. But 
the pressures of unemployment and social alienation today have 
produced outbursts of violence among students which pose very 
much the same kind of threat to an independent Indian government 
as they did to that of the British. 


The Education of Women 

William Adam, who prepared a series of reports for the government 
on the state of education in Bengal and Bihar, said in 1835 that the 
standard of instruction for women ‘cannot be said to be low, for with 
a very few individual exceptions there is no instruction at all. 
Absolute and hopeless ignorance is, in general, their lot’ [13]. Adam 
maintained that there was a belief amongst Hindu women that a girl 
who had been taught to read and write would be widowed soon 
after marriage - a belief, he recorded, ‘not discouraged by men’ [16], 
Fundamentally, most men believed that a woman’s place was in the 
home (a belief shared by many Englishman, then and later), and that 
the only education she needed - in domestic economy - should be 
acquired in the home. 



The early educational reformers, accepting this view and being 
unwilling to interfere in the established social pattern, ignored the 
problem of women’s education. But Christian missionaries did not. 
The first missionary attempt at female education seems to have taken 
place in 1818, at the London Missionary Society’s school at Chin- 
surah in Bengal. It was not particularly successful. In the following 
year, a number of Englishwomen founded the Calcutta Female 
Juvenile Society; by 1823, the society had six schools with 160 pupils. 

The Calcutta School Society discovered - by what statistical 
method is not revealed - that only four hundred women out of 
approximately forty million could read and write. This inspired the 
British and Foreign School Society in London to send out a woman 
teacher in 1821. This lady - a Miss Cooke, who is better known in 
the history of women’s education in India by her married name of 
Wilson - succeeded in organizing twenty-three girls’ schools in 
Calcutta and its vicinity within two years of her arrival. Reginald 
Heber, the first Bishop of Calcutta, described a visit to one of Mrs. 
Wilson’s schools in December 1824, when Lady Amherst, wife of the 
governor-general, attended an examination of the pupils. ‘It was 
very pretty to sec the little swarthy children come forward to repeat 
their lessons, and show their work to Lady Amherst, blushing even 
through their dark complexions, their slim half-naked figures, their 
black hair plaited, their foreheads specked with white or red paint, 
and their heads, necks, wrists, and ankles loaded with all the little 
finery they could beg or borrow for the occasion. Their parents make 
no objection’, the Bishop went on, ‘to their learning the catechism, 
or being taught to read the Bible, provided nothing is done which 
can make them lose caste. And many of the Brahmins themselves, 
cither finding the current of popular opinion too strongly in favour 
of the measures pursued for them to struggle with, or really influ- 
enced by the beauty of the lessons taught in Scripture, and the advan- 
tage of giving useful knowledge, and something like a moral sense to 
the lower ranks of their countrymen and countrywomen, appear to 
approve of Mrs. Wilson’s plan, and attend the examination of her 
scholars’ [17]. Surprisingly enough, the Bishop’s conclusions seem to 
have been at least partially right, and a large ^um of money was 
actually given to Mrs. Wilson to build a school by a leading member 
of the Calcutta Hindu community. Cicnerally speaking, however, 


only the lower Hindu castes would permit their daughters to attend 
missionary schools. 

The first successful attempt to establish a secular school for girls 
was made in 1849. This institution - set up by Drinkwatcr Bethune, 
Law Member of the govemor-generars council - was intended for 
girls of ‘wealth and rank’. The girls were to be under the charge of an 
Englishwoman, and were to study Bengali and English and ‘a 
thousand feminine works and accomplishments in embroidery and 
fancy work, in drawing, and in many other things that would give 
them the means of adorning their own homes and of supplying 
themselves with harmless and elegant employment’ [i^]. The school, 
however did not receive much support, and after Bethune’s death in 
1851 it had to be privately financed by the governor-general. Lord 
Dalhousie, until 1856 when it was taken over by the government and 
became the first institution in India dedicated to the higher education 
of women. Under Dalhousic’s direction, the Bengal Council of 
Education was instructed to encourage female education, but only 
where a demand for it existed. The Education Despatch of 1854 
accepted that female education was of importance, but failed to 
suggest that the government should do anything about it. 

Elsewhere in India, female education before 1858 was very much 
the concern of missionary societies. In Bombay, the American 
Missionary Society opened a school in 1824, and this example was 
followed by other missionary organizations. In 1851, one private 
school for girls was opened at Poona and two at Ahmedabad. In 
1854, there were sixty-five schools for girls in the Bombay presi- 
dency and about 3,500 pupils; 593 girls attended co-cducational 
establishments. In Madras, the story was much the same, but there - 
as with male education in missionary schools - female education was 
by far the most advanced in India. In 1854, about eight thousand 
girls were attending missionary schools in the Madras presidency. 

After the assumption of power by the Crown, the government 
still hesitated over its attitude to female education. Indians might be 
demanding education for boys, but there was still positive opposition 
to education for girls. Any government attempt to establish and 
staff schools for girls might, if not handled delicately, outrage not 
only conservative opinion but the so-called ‘enlightened’ classes - 
who were curiously unenlightened as far as women were concerned. 




Nevertheless, by 1875 the government had established nearly a 
thousand girls’ schools with about seventy thousand pupils. Progress 
was never swift - there were less than a million girls at school in 
1911-12, and approximately three millions in 1939, which re- 
presented about 2 per cent of the then female population. 

It was obvious to the planners that providing education for girls 
was fundamentally a matter of social attitudes and that these could 
better be changed from within the Hindu and Muslim communities. 
Such customs as the seclusion of women, particularly in the north, 
did have an effect on education, though there were purdah schools. 
In Madras, where purdah did not exist, there was a particularly large 
increase in the number of girls attending school from 1927 onwards. 
The real incentive towards change was to come from Indian re- 
formers who regarded female education as part of their general 
campaign to raise the status of women. One of the most influential of 
these was a Brahmin widow who had been converted to Christianity, 
Pandita Ramabhai (1858-1922). At Poona in the Bombay presidency 
she built a home for Hindu widows which was also a centre of 
Sanskrit learning. The Western conception of equality for women 
was implicit in Ramabhai’s ideas and her views on education were 
dedicated to the same premise. Naturally, her activities aroused 
considerable opposition, but her home at Poona flourished - at one 
time there were as many as two thousand Hindu widows there. 

A rather different view of the position of Indian women was taken 
by Dr. Karve, who also founded a school for Hindu widows at 
Poona. In 1916, this became the Indian Women’s University. Dr. 
Karve believed that woman’s role in life was fundamentally different 
from man’s, and that her education should be different. Dr. Karve 
therefore insisted that native languages should be the media of 
instruction. Karve’s views were, in fact, opposed to the spirit of the 
time; conservative thinkers opposed him because they were opposed 
to any kind of education for women; the progressive element 
opposed him because he sought to Indianize women’s education. By 
1939 the number of undergraduates in the four colleges of the Indian 
Women’s University had increased to 170; it had been six, tvyenty 
years earlier. 

The movement towards extension of education for both Hindu 
and Muslim women undoubtedly owed its principal impetus to the 



nationalist movement. Egalitarian political ideas had some effect 
on the social position of women and, generally speaking, nationalists 
were in favour of female education. Nevertheless, the number 
of girls at school increased very slowly. In the field of higher 
education, however, the picture was more satisfactory. In 1935, for 
example, about five thousand women were studying for university 
degrees. In 1892, there had been only eighty-six, and even as late as 
1929 only 1,800. But the educational standard of the candidates left 
much to be desired. Of the five thousand students of 1935, only 
460 actually graduated. These figures arc not unsatisfactory when 
they arc compared with those for men students. 

At the elementary level, most girls did not go to school after the 
age of eight or nine - the normal age for marri ige before the Child 
Marriage Restraint Act was passed in 1929, making fourteen the 
minimum age at which a girl could be married. This generally kept 
the level of literacy among females extremely low. In rural areas, 
where even the minimal education for boys was accepted only if it 
had some economic utility, education for girls - which quite 
obviously had none - was usually disapproved of. 

In urban areas, the educated classes slowly began to realize that 
their sons might well be happier with educated wives, and the 
possession of some educational qualifications began to appear as an 
important part of a bride’s dowry. But the government did very 
little to expand female education, in spite of such hopeful statements 
as that of the Indian Statutory Commission of 1929, which recom- 
mended that, ‘in the interests of the advance of Indian education as a 
whole, priority should now be given to the claims of girls’ education 
in every scheme of expansion’ [jp]. Whatever the government did or 
did not do, however, the infiltration of Western ideas was having its 

Progress in women’s education was slow, because of the insti- 
tutional timidity of British rule, its fear of social upheaval and in, the 
twentieth century, of mass political violence. The government’s 
attitude also reflected that of articulate Indians, of whom only a small 
minority actively wanted education for women. In the last years of 
British India, self-government and, later, independence were the 
overriding aims. To these, education for women was irrelevant - 
however much was said about it in conferences and manifestoes. 



Religion and Philosophy 

The tendencies which had emerged in the years before the Mutiny 
were to develop and receive new expression after 1858. 

Many educated Indians began to demand a more positive pro- 
gramme of social reform, not from the government - which was 
obviously unwilling to take action - but from Indians themselves. 
Social reform had been one of Ram Mohun Roy’s purposes in 
founding the Brahnio Samaj, and it was therefore not unnatural that 
increased pressures in favour of reformist activity should come from 
within that movement. It was to cause conflict and,»in the end, a split 
in the Samaj. Debendranath Tagore, its leader, was essentially 
inward-looking, concerned more with contemplation than with 
action. Because of this, he favoured a gradual process of social 
reform. ‘We [the Brahmos] are in and of the great Hindu com- 
munity’, he wrote in 1867, ‘and it devolves upon us by example and 
precept to hold up as a beacon the highest truths of the Hindu 
shastras. In their light must we purify our heritage of customs, 
usages, rites and ceremonies and adapt them to the needs of our 
conscience and our community. But we must beware of proceeding 
too fast in matters of social change, lest we be separated from the 
greater body whom we would guide and uplift’ [1]. 

This attitude failed to satisfy many of the younger Brahmos. The 
most important, Keshub Chunder Sen, had joined the movement in 
1857. He founded many discussion groups, advocated widow 
remarriage, and organized famine relief. His fiery sermons, 
dehvered in English, excited educated audiences throughout India, 
and branches of the Samaj were founded in cities outside Bengal, 
giving the movement a much wider area of contact. Keshub came 
into conflict with Debendranath when he insisted that Brahmos, most 
of whom were of the Brahmin caste, should give up wearing the 
sacred thread, the sign of that caste. They parted company and 
Keshub set up a separate organization called the Brahmo Samaj 
of India. Like Debendranath, he too came to rely more and more on 
personal intuition. In 1878, this fervent opponent of child marriage 
- who had been instrumental in persuading the government to pass a 
special marriage Act for Brahmos - allowed his thirteen-year-old 


the INDIAN EMPIRE I858-I947 

daughter to marry a Hindu prince. Many of his followers broke away 
from him and formed yet another group, the Sandharan (general) 
Brahmo Samaj. 

In his later years, Keshub attempted to create a synthesis between 
Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. He was particularly influenced by 
the spirit of Christianity. By assimilating the best of other religions, 
he envisaged that a new communion would emerge. ‘Cultivate this 
communion, my brethren’, he said in 1879, ‘and continually absorb 
all that is good and noble in each other. Do not hate, do not exclude 
others, as the sectarians do, but include and absorb all humanity and 
all truth. Let there be no antagonism, no exclusion. Let the embank- 
ment which each sect, each nation, has raised, be swept away by the 
flood of cosmopolitan truth, and let all the barriers and partitions 
which separate man from man be pulled down, so that truth and love 
and purity may flow freely through millions of hearts and through 
hundreds of successive generations, from country to country, from 
age to age. Thus shall the deficiencies of individual and national 
character be complemented, and humanity shall attain a fuller and 
more perfect standard of religious and moral life’ [ 2 ]. Keshub 
called the product of his desire for synthesis the New Dispensation, 
which he believed he had received a divine commission to teach. 
The symbol of his new religion consisted of a Hindu trident, a 
Christian cross, and a crescent of Islam, but the main influence was 
Christian. He summed up the faith of his New Dispensation in these 
words: ‘My creed is the science of God which enlighteneth all. My 
gospel is the love of God which saveth all. My heaven is life in God 
which is accessible to all. My church is that invisible kingdom of 
God in which is all truth, all love, all holiness’ [j]. 

Little remained of Keshub’s work after his death in 1884, but he 
was one of the first to state the proposition that, though Britain had 
much to offer India in terms of science and industry, India had 
something to offer in return - the wisdom of the spirit. It was a 
proposition taken up by others after him, and it was one which 
offered inspiration to many in the Hindu nationalist movement. 

Keshub Chunder Sen had played a valuable role in publicizing the 
ideas of Raipahrishna Paramahamsa (1836-86) and there were signs 
of Ramakrishna’s influence in the New Dispensation. Ramakrishna 
was a man who had had no formal education and knew very little 



English. He was an ecstatic, and in his mystical experiences saw God 
in many forms, including those of Muhammad and Christ. Worship- 
ping each manifestation, he matched his clothes, his food and his 
prayers to whichever religious condition was uppermost at the time. 
Ramakrishna's contention was that all religions were true, and that 
there was therefore no need for synthesis. The individual should 
follow his own chosen path. ‘A truly religious man*, he said, ‘should 

think that other religions also are paths leading to the truth Every 

man should follow his own religion. A Christian should follow 
Christianity, a Mohammedan should follow Mohammedanism, and 
so on. For the Hindus the ancient path, the path of the Aryan Rishis, 
is the best’ [4]. 

Ramakrishna’s teaching and the way he presented it - not in 
completely thought-out works, but in a series of sayings which were 
full of sometimes rather broad humour and always good sense - was 
immensely appealing. ‘A man,’ he once said, ‘after fourteen years of 
hard asceticism in a lonely forest, obtained at last the power of 
walking over the waters. Oveijoyed at this acquisition, he went to 
his guru, and told him of his grand feat. At this the master replied: 
“My poor boy, what thou hast accomplished after fourteen years’ 
arduous labour, ordinary men do the same by paying a penny to the 
boatman’’ ’ [5]. Ramakrishna used short, alliterative phrases to 
express his principal ideas, for his method of teaching was through 
conversation. 'Naham naham\ he said. *Tuhu tuhu (Not I, not I. Thou, 
thou). He preached a gospel of service. It was this particular aspect 
which inspired Ramakrishna’s disciples, many of them young men 
from educated middle-class backgrounds. 

One of the most important of Ramakrishna’s disciples was 
Vivekananda (1863-1902), who propagated his master’s teaching not 
only in India but in the West. In direct contrast with the Brahmos, 
Vivekananda regarded such things as idolatry and the caste system as 
good. Idols were necessary to men who could not envisage God 
without them. ‘Those reformers’, he wrote, ‘who preach against 
image-worship, or what they denounce as idolatry - to them I say: 
“Brothers ! If you are fit to worship God-without-Form discarding 
any external help, do so, but why do you condemn others who 
cannot do the same? A beautiful large edifice, the glorous relic of a 
hoary antiquity has, out of neglect or disuse, fallen into a dilapidated 



condition; accumulations of dirt and dust may be lying everywhere 
within it; may be, some portions are tumbling down to the ground. 
What will you do to it? Will you take in hand the necessary 
cleansing and repairs and thus restore the old, or will you pull the 
whole edifice down to the ground and seek to build another in its 
place, after a sordid modem plan whose permanence has yet to be 
established? We have to reform it, which truly means to make ready 
or perfect by necessary cleansing and repairs, not by demolishing the 
whole thing. There the function of reform ends” ’ [ 6 ], 

Vivekananda developed Keshub Chunder Sen’s thesis that India 
could learn material things from the West but that the West should 
understand that, in spiritual matters, India had much to offer. He 
emphasized, for Indians, his master’s teaching that all religions were 
equally good and that it was the duty of Hindus to preserve and 
cherish their own. Vivekananda, however, went further and sugges- 
ted that Hindu thought had more to offer than other religions, thus 
helping to create among modem Hindus a sense of pride in being 
Hindu. Whether he would have approved of the extent to which 
such pride was to be taken by religious nationalists after his death is 

Despite his emphasis on social service, Vivekananda’s thought had 
chauvinistic overtones which helped to create what can only be 
described as mystical patriotism, Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) - 
who came to be known as Sri Aurobindo - turned, after a Western 
education, to Ramakrishna and Vivekananda for inspiration. 
Aurobindo became an active extremist, though he left politics 
completely in 1910 and retired to the French enclave of Pondicherry 
where he remained imtil his death. During his active political life, 
which lasted for only four years, he gave to extremism a passionate 
sense of coimtry and of religion, maintaining that nationalism was the 
work of God - not a political programme, but a religion and a creed. 

Ramakrishna had accepted the separate validity of all religions. 
Dayananda Saraswati (1824-83) rejected them all. Nevertheless, his 
rejection led him to reform. Like the Brahmos, Dayananda looked to 
the past for justification and for criticism of the Hindu present. He 
found it in the Vedas. He, too, professed theism. Everything after the 
Vedas, he maintained, was superstition. Caste and untouchability 
were aberrations. 



Dayananda had recognized the importance of Western science and 
proceeded to discover, if not the science itself, at least the seed of it in 
the Vedas. He found - not, perhaps, very convincingly - allusions to 
steam engines, railways and steamships. In 1875, Dayananda formed 
the Arya Samaj to publicize his views. Its official creed was theistic. 
Orthodox Hinduism restricts the castes permitted to read the Vedas. 
The Samaj invited all men to do so. It was strongly opposed to 
idolatry and animal sacrifice. While Aryas accepted the doctrine of 
transmigration of souls, they maintained that there was no ultimate 
union with God. Dayananda's views offended the orthodox and 
many attempts were made on his life. Finally, after he had accused a 
princely ruler of loose living, the woman involved had him poisoned 
- by means of ground glass in his milk. 

Keshub Chunder Sen, Vivekananda, Christianity (particularly the 
Sermon on the Mount), Tolstoy, Thoreau and Ruskin all influenced 
the ideas of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), who is 
more widely known as a nationalist leader than as a religious thinker. 
In spite of his admitted liking for popular Christian hymns and his 
statements on the ethical value of Christianity, Gandhi’s fundamental 
ideas were derived from Hindu tradition. His doctrine of non- 
violence - though he claimed to have been given it by Tolstoy - was 
more probably derived from the Jains, a Hindu sect of considerable 
influence in his birthplace of Gujarat, who will killor maim no living 
tiling. Even his belief that the British could be blackmailed into 
giving India her freedom (see page 290) has a sound Hindu precedent 
in the practice of sitting dharna (see page 71). Gandhi’s real purpose 
was to reform Hinduism from within. 

Gandhi was not a systematic thinker. Most of what he said had 
only some immediate purpose, for he was a politician by necessity. 
In spite of attempts by both Western and Indian admirers to make him 
a great religious thinker and philosopher, his ideas have little 
application outside’ the unique’ circumstances of the struggle for 
freedom. The respect in which he was held by millions of ordinary 
Hindus was a tribute not to what he said but to what he was - a man 
who had dedicated himself to their serv ice. ‘My life’, he said, ‘is my 
message.’ In his Autobiography, Gandhi stated his belief that Truth is 
God. ‘To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to 
face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself And 



a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of 
life. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field 
of politics ; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all 
humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with 
politics do not know what religion means. Identification with every- 
thing that lives is impossible without self-purification; without self- 
purification the observance of the law of ahimsa [non-violence] must 
remain an empty dream; God can never be realized by one who is 
not pure of heart. Self-purification therefore must mean purification 
in all the walks of life. And purification being highly infectious, 
purification of oneself necessarily leads to the purification of one’s 
surroimdings’ [7]. It was his justification for political action. 

* ★ ★ 

The sudden recognition after the Mutiny - in which traditional India 
had played an important part-that Muslims would not only suffer for 
the Mutiny but also for their lack of Western education, led to what 
is known as the Aligarh Movement, which was mainly responsible 
for bringing Western knowledge to Muslims (see page 239). The 
animateur of the movement was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who was the 
Muslim counterpart of Ram Mohun Roy, anxious to accept Western 
science but without damaging the fabric of Islam. Syed Ahmed’s 
problem was that there existed only one sacred text, the Koran, which 
was universally accepted as the only authority. He was forced, 
therefore, to take the Koran and try to interpret it in the light of 
modem scientific knowledge. 

Syed Ahmed was strongly opposed to superstition, and placed his 
hope in reason. He and his followers were called nacheris, a corruption 
of naturis, as they believed in natural religion, in interpreting the word 
of God by the work of God. Thoi^h his attempts to cleanse Islam of 
its belief in miracles and the irrational were hotly attacked by 
orthodox theologians, his basic idea that the best in Western thought 
could be assimilated into Muslim culture without endangering Islam 
was generally accepted among Muslim intellectuals in the twentieth 

Syed Ahmed was followed by others, some of whom went much 
further than he had. Syed Amir Ali (1849-1928), whose book The 



Spirit of Islam (1891) was influential sought to defend Islam against 
the attacks of both Plinduism and Christianity. His method, like that 
of Syed Ahmed, was to reinterpret the Koran and to find in it 
authority for attacking such practices as polygamy. Not surprisingly, 
orthodox Muslims foimded their own self^efence organization to 
protect orthodox theology. Attacks on ‘westemism’ continued until 
the end of British rule, and after. But the progress of political Islam 
in India, instead of reinforcing orthodox theology, tended to support 
the modernist approach. 

The poet, Muhammad Iqbal (1873-1958) was profoundly in- 
fluenced by the German philosopher, Nietzche, and the French 
philosopher, Henri Bergson, though his main source of inspiration 
remained the Islamic tradition. He was also indebted to the Turkish 
mystic, Rumi. From Nietzche, he produced a sense of destiny for 
Indian Islam. In the Isla mi c community he saw a real democracy, but 
he believed, with all the modernists, that it was necessary ‘to examine 
in an independent spirit, what Europe has thought and how far the 
conclusions reached by her can help us in die revision and, if 
necessary, reconstruction, of theological thought in Islam’ [ 5 ]. 

Generally speaking, the Muslim masses - like the Hindu masses - 
remained untouched by the modernists, whose only effect was on the 
educated. Popular Muslim movements, like the Khilafat and the 
Khaksar, were political in purpose, though their appeal lay in 
religious slogans. The partition of India in 1947 entrenched the 
acceptance of Western nationalist ideas. It also entrenched certain 
clement of traditional Islam. 

At least one attempt was made to create a synthesis of Muslim and 
Christian ideas. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (c.1838-1908), 
largely in reaction to the activities of Christian missionaries and of 
the Arya Samaj in the Punjab, founded a new movement the 
Ahmadiya) about 1879 by declaring himself to be the Christian 
Messiah, the Muhammadan Mahdi (the apocalyptic saviour), and the 
‘final incarnation’ of the Hindus. He was, however, primarily 
concerned with proclaiming the unity of Islam and Christianity. He 
claimed that Jesus had not risen from the dead and ascended into 
heaven, but that he had recovered from his wounds of the Cross, 
journeyed to India, and died in Kashmir. After Mirza Ghulam 
Ahmad’s death, the movement split into a liberal and a conservative 



wing, the former indistinguishable from the rest of the liberal 
middle-class Muslims and the latter from the orthodox. Ahmadiyas 
did, however, keep themselves exclusive from other Muslims, though 
in a social rather than a theological sense. 

The activities of Christian missionaries increased after 1858, with 
the covert approval of the government. Though their energies 
pressed most heavily on the Hindu conununity, others also felt it 
necessary to defend themselves. The Sikhs, a rrformist Hindu sect, 
had been established in the sixteenth century. Though they accepted 
practically all Hindu ideas, they rejected idolatry. Idol worship had, 
however, crept into ordinary religious practice, and by the middle of 
the nineteenth century a drift back to Hinduism was in progress. 
About 1890, a body of reformers emerged, who established a college 
for Sikhs and a number of local associations called Singh Sabhas. Li 
response to the threats of both Christian and Hindu proselytizing, 
attempts to refurbish the old Sikh traditions were increased, as were 
social reform activities within die community. Theolc^cally, there 
was very little effect, the tendency being to move towards a purer 

On the whole, Indians reaaed to Western secularism in govern- 
ment and in law - as well as to the, at times intense, propaganda of 
Christian missionaries - by moving towards a defence of the old 
religions rather than attempts at synthesis. The defence took the form 
either of reaction, a solidification of the past, or of modernization and 
an attempt to reconcile religion with the concept of social and 
material progress implicit in Western ideas, secular and religious. 

Art and Architecture 

The men who ruled the Company’s dominions in the first half* 
century of the British connection had little or no dislike for Indian 
life and religion. They accepted the situation as it was and were 
anxious to have the life around them preserved in paintings. But the 
growth of a sense of moral superiority created a gap between the 
British and the Indians they ruled. After 1858, too, India had lost 
much of its novelty for Europeans. The extension of the railway 
reduced the vast treks across country which had been commonplace 
before its coming and banished for ever the closer acquaintance 
which such treks had brought. The Mutiny, too, increased British 



isolation, and it was isolation by choice. The cameradisplaced the art- 
ist. By the 1 890s, Indian painting for British patrons had almost ended. 

Without patronage from either the British or the Indian middle 
classes - who took their aesthetic as well as other standards from 
them - traditional art survived only in some of the native states. But 
even there it had become imitative and lacking in inspiration. At 
least one Indian artist (Ravi Varma) even began to paint in oils and 
in Western style, producing a large number of portraits of princes 
and officials, including (in 1879) the governor of Bombay. 

Though the British now had little interest in traditional painting, 
many of them did admire traditional crafts which, in the third 
quarter of the nineteenth century, were falling into decline as the 
volume of cheap Western imports increased. Instead of taking the 
obvious way of saving them - by imposing protective tariffs - the 
government sponsored art schools. These institutions were not 
notably successful in the craft fields, and disastrous in that of painting. 
Indians were trained to draw in European style, and left the schools 
without any chance'of making a living. 

A change came when an Englishman, E. B. Havell, was appointed 
principal of the Calcutta School of Art in 1896. Havell believed, with 
some justification, that the schools had been valueless and, indeed, 
pernicious because of the emphasis on European techniques and 
European aesthetic values. He began to turn Indians in the Erection 
of their own artistic traditions. Under his influence, young Indians - 
of whom the most noteworthy was Abanindranath Tagore, of the 
great Bengali family - began to experiment with styles based upon 
Mughal paintings. The results were feeble, sentimental, and as 
detached from Indian reality as the boardroom portraits of Ravi 
Varma. Critics who disliked Abanindranath’s work saw in its anaemic 
colouring Western influences without any compensating ‘Indianness’ 
other than its derivation from traditional styles. Worst of all, it 
lacked feeling. It was a synthesis in which both elements were the 
losers. It was not a ‘modem* response but an atavistic one, a revival as 
reactionary in its way as that of the Hindu nationalists. 

Through travel abroad, however, Indians were beginning to 
acquire a new awareness of world art, and at a time when the art 
movements of Europe were at their most dynamic. Between 1923 and 
1928, Abanindranath’s brother Gogonendranath, experimented with 



cubism and produced paintings which might have come from 
anywhere, as they contained nothing characteristically Indian. 

The problem which faced Indian artists in the first thirty years of 
the twentieth century was not so much the form of synthesis as the 
point of departure. Were Western art forms to be given an Indian 
nationality, or were Indian forms to take on a modern expression? 
Between about 1900 and 1920, the art of the Jains was rediscovered, 
as were other Indian styles which had survived in such parts of India 
as Rajasthan. These styles were not naturalistic. Flat planes v/ere 
mainly used, and hot colours. There were frequent distortions. 
Indeed, they had a remarkably ‘modern’ look. Here, it seemed, was 
a tecbiique (and an Indian technique, at that) which might be used to 
create an art which was modern and yet related to the Indian 
tradition. It was later to influence the Bengali painter, Jamini Roy. 

Rabindranath Tagore, that entrepreneur of India’s culture, turned 
in his sixties to the unconscious as a source for his paintings. His work 
has much in common with that of Paul Klee, though without the 
humour, and also contains reflections of other Europeans. Some 
Western critics - and^ in particular W. G. Arclier - have been 
enthusiastic about Rabindranath’s drawings and paintings and have 
seen in them both a genuinely modern and undoubtedly Indian 
content. There is no doubt that, in the arid desert that was 
modern Indian art in his time, Tagore’s work stands out as vital. 

Among Indian painters who sought not to explore their un- 
conscious but to bring together a modem idiom and Indian reality 
are Jamini Roy and Amrita Shcr-Gil. The intellectual climate in 
which twentieth-century Indian artists found themselves was 
dominated by ideas of nationalism and the struggle for freedom from 
the British. Just as, in the early part of the nineteenth century, the 
desire of British customers for picture postcards had sent Indian 
artists to subjects unknown to their predecessors, so, in the first half 
of the twentieth century, painters turned for their subjects to the 
Indian village in pursuit of that identity with the masses which they 
felt the need of as much as any politician. Amrita Shcr-Gil (1913-41) 
was the daughter of a Sikh father and a Hungarian mother. She 
studied in Paris for five years and adopted the un-Indian technique of 
painting in oils. Perhaps the most important European influence in 
W case was Paul Gauguin, though until about 1933 she was also 



profoundly influenced by the work of Cezanne. Back in India, 
Amrita Shcr-Gil turned to the village for her subjects. But though she 
was drawn there by the peculiar situation of the last years of British 
India, the political and intellectual circumstances of the time had no 
real place for artists. An artist who portrays social conditions cannot 
do so in a vacuum ; the realism lies not in the portrayal but in the hope 
of response. There was none for Amrita Sher-Gil -- nationalism had 
no need for painters, and India’s art-lovers were indifferent to social 

The use of water-colours in the early nineteenth century had 
inspired a type of bazaar painting at Kalighat, Calcutta. Its subjects 
were gods and goddesses. Its style was extremely free, shading was 
used to express volume, and the backgrounds Were usually left 
blank. Kalighat paintings influenced the Bengali painter, Jamini Roy 
(b.1887) who had begun as an academic artist in Western style. 
After 1932, however, Jamini Roy rejected his Kalighat sources and 
turned mosc to medieval miniature paintings and Bengali village art. 

Though the British themselves played no seminal role in the 
beginnings of modern Indian art, the search for new idioms was an 
intellectual response to the impact of British rule. In the first half of 
the twentieth century, British art had very little to offer compared 
with the school of Paris, and in any case modem art was international 
in spirit. But the search for new forms of expression - from that of 
Abanindranath Tagore to that of Amrita Sher-Gil - was a product of 
the oppressive emotional climate of the final years of British rule. 

★ ★ ★ 

The isolation of the British after the Mutiny was reflected in their 
architecture. Every building they erected in the debased and imitative 
Victorian style - town halls resembling Renaissance palazzi and 
railway stations disguised as Gothic cathedrals - was a gesture of 
contempt for indigenous architectural traditions. Some concessions 
were made to India by adding Mughal motifs and domes to neo- 
Gothic buildings, but the government, the principal builder, was not 
interested in living Indian architecture. In the large cities, what little 
private building there was, copied the style of public buildings. 

Throughout the nineteenth century, however, there were still 



Indian architects and builders producing religious and private 
architecture of considerable vitality. Most of it was in the princely 
states or commissioned by princely rulers - a palace in the city of 
Benares, or a temple at one of the holy plapes of Hinduism. 

The last twenty years of British rule saw a considerable amount of 
mainly conmiercial building in the major cities. Most of it was 
designed by foreign architects and followed the general pattern of 
contemporary European and American architecture, though it was 
occasionally embellished with Indian motifs. There was no synthesis 
because there was no inspiration. The growth of a modern Indian 
architecture using international idioms in a distinctively Indian 
manner had to wait until independence. 


The founding of universities during the Mutiny began a wide 
diffusion of the works of English and European writers amongst 
educated Indians. When an entirely English-based education was 
opened to a large number of Indians with widely differing mother 
tongues, the chances of cross-fertilization became very much higher. 
In the absence of any other all-India language, English became even 
more important to intellectuals because it was the only means of 
communication between them. The number of English-language 
periodicals expanded considerably in the last years of the nineteenth 
century. Under the pressures of a growing and articulate nationalism, 
new Indian-owned daily newspapers in English came into existence. 
The language, as well as the idea, of nationalism was English, and 
many Indians came to use it with great fluency and ease. 

In Indo-English poetry, two Bengali women - Aru Dutt, who died 
in 1874 aged twenty, and her sister Toru, who died in 1877 aged 
twenty-one - wrote poems which were very English in form though 
characteristically Indian in subject. Romesh Chandra Dutt, who was 
responsible for a number of historical works, published translations 
of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata which some Indian critics still 
believe to be good. They are, however, even making allowance for 
massive condensation, unfaithful to the originals, and arc rendered in 
a facile Tennysonian metre which bears no relation to that of the 

Rabindranath Tagore, whose real place is in Bengali literature, 



produced English versions of some of his poems and wrote a number 
of prose works in English. The Hindu extremist - and, later, mystic - 
Aurobindo Ghose, was influenced by English literary styles and 
wrote with considerable faciUty a great many poems and critical 
works. These included a vast blank verse epic, Savitri^ which took 
over fifty years to write and was published after his death. The 
poetess, Sarojini Naidu, who published her first collection of poems 
{The Golden Threshold) in 1905, has been compared with Elizabeth 
Barrett Browning, and there are certainly some aflinities in their 
works. During the last years of British rule, there were numerous 
Indian poets writing in English but they did little more, in most 
cases, than reflect the latest European vogues with some fidelity. 

The novel in English began to come into prominence after 1920, 
though there had been a number of rather mediocre examples before 
that date. Among the works worth remembering are K. S. Ven- 
kataramani’s Kandan the Patriot (1932), Mulk Raj Anand’s The 
Village (1939), and the works of R. K. Narayan, including The Dark 
Room (1938) and The English Teacher {194s), 

Indian writers in English (including politicians) hoped to reach a 
much wider English-speaking audience than that composed of 
English-educated Indians, Some of them achieved it, but the 
majority did not. It was only to be expected that, as English had 
opened the door to a wider world, Indians themselves would hope 
to influence that world. Politicians like Jawaharlal Nehru and 
Mahatma Gandhi succeeded in doing so, but it was mainly what they 
had to say that gave them an audience, not how they said it. It is a 
fair criticism of Indian creative writing in the English language to say 
that it was exoticism of subject combined with some facility of 
expression - rather than any genius - which led to publication in the 

In the vernaculars, Bengali continued to lead the way. The English 
novel form was used by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, whose models 
were Scott and Bulwer Lytton. Bankim Chandra wrote his first 
novel {Raj Mohuns Life) in English, but all his others were written in 
Bengali. They are emotion-charged historical works, highly 
rhetorical in tone. Bankim Chandra had quite a number of imhators. 

Rabindranath Tagore, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for 
literature in 1913 was profoundly influenced by European poets. 



Unfortunately, he was also impressed by the windy mysticism of the 
Celtic twilight and the works of the Belgian dramatist, Maurice 

From the i88os onwards, a reaction against total acceptance of 
Western values - which was also expressed in religious revivalism 
and religious nationalism - had its effect in vernacular literature. In 
spirit, the reaction owed much to Western scholarship, which had 
discovered India’s past. But the literature it produced was, with some 
exceptions, sentimental and weak. 

In^the last twenty years of British rule, large numbers of pseudo- 
psychological stories were written and published. Other writers 
based their works on such important English authors as Ethel M. Dell. 
Indeed, except for one or two outstanding figures, the state of 
literature in Indian languages at the end of British rule was low. The 
works of Bengali novelists and poets had been translated into other 
Indian languages, and pseudo-Tagores and Bankim Chandras 
emerged in most of them. Plots were lifted from such English 
writers as Mrs. Henry Wood, author of the melodrama East Lynne, 
from Conan Doyle, and from many others less respectable. 

The movement to synthesize Western style and Eastern subject 
continued. It produced such unlikely results as the Johnsonian essay 
in Marathi (V. S. Chiplunkar’s Nihandh Mala, 1875). A number of 
translations of European works into the major Indian languages was 
one of the outstanding features of twentieth-century literature. 
The authors ranged from the most worthless of romance writers to 
Shakespeare, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Victor Hugo and George Bernard 
Shaw. In all the Indian languages, it is possible to find poems and 
stories, essays and novels imitating the styles of a wide variety of 
European writers. T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land is echoed in Kannada, 
in Adiga’s Gondalapura (1943). Oliver Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield 
has its Telugu counterpart in Virasalingam’s Rajasekhera Chavitram 
(e.i88i). The Indian theatre, too, had its versions of European 

One of the most interesting features of the impact of the West was 
the way in which Indian languages were penetrated by English words 
and idioms. It was commonplace for ordinary speech to be peppered 
with fragments of English. Many writers used them in Indian- 
languagc works after making the necessary phonetic changes. Before 



the end of British rule, however, nationalist sentiment was turning 
against the ‘defilement’ of Indian languages by English - an attitude 
which has intensified since independence. 

Whatever criticisms may be made (and they are many) of the 
effects of English ideas and models upon Indian literatures, they did 
bring a new vitality and a desire for change. On the whole, the 
results before the end of British rule were not encouraging, but a 
foundation had been laid for later experiments which have resulted 
in considerable progress being made since independence. 


The Mutiny made a profound and lasting impression on both British 
and Indians. The British reaction in India - despite the cooling words 
of Queen Victoria’s proclamation of 1858, which had promised that 
there would be no discrimination against Indians in the public 
service - was to ensure such discrimination in practice, on what were 
purely racial grounds. The depth of British fears aroused by the 
Mutiny has been dealt with elsewhere (see page 165). The British 
in India did not dissimulate and their attitude appeared as what it 
was, a C(Mnpletc denial of the frequently stated hope of British 
liberals that co-operation with Indians would be the first step 
towards actual self-government. The Indians who were first nom- 
inated to the new councils represented the old governing classes. 
They were not the men whom Macaulay foresaw as ‘Indian in 
colour and blood, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and 
in mtellect’,[i] who were to be the acknowledged legatees of British 
rule. On the contrary, such men as these were denied higher posts 
in the civil service. Racial discrimination was reinforced by economic 
discrimination. Most educated Indians had looked to government 
employment as the reward for their anglicization. Now, cut off 
from their background by education, they found themselves un- 
acceptable elsewhere, and the rejection in financial terms was the 
most expressive of all. Economic discrimination was to be respon- 
sible for various nationalist reactions. 

Racial - and therefore cultural - discrimination inevitably led to 
religious revivalism. Economic and political discrimination led both 


to moderation and extremism, to imitative ideologies and to Hindu 
nationalism. During most of the latter part of the nineteenth century, 
these two aspects of Indian reaction remained separate, but by the 
beginning of the twentieth century they had come together. In 
various guises, they have remained so ever since. 

A third attitude - the desire to create some form of synthesis 
between Eastern and Western ethical values, first propounded by 
Ram Mohun Roy - influenced both sides. Ram Mohun founded 
the Brahmo Samaj (‘Society of the Worshippers of God’), and its 
work was continued after his death by, first, Debendranath Tagore 
(1817-1905), and then Keshub Chunder Sen - whose name is 
sometimes spelt as Keshab Chandra Sen - (1839-84). Debendranath 
sought to continue the purification of Hinduism which had been 
begun by Ram Mohun, while Keshub tried to create a genuine 
synthesis between Hinduism and Christianity (see page 259). The 
Brahmo Samaj influenced only a very small minority of Indians, 
but its role under both Debendranath and Keshub was seminal, for 
it helped to fashion the religious understanding of sucli men as 
Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. 

The activities of Debendranath and Keshub were primarily 
defensive. Those of Dayananda Saraswati (1824-83), however, were 
aggressive and full of Hindu self-confidence. Dayananda rejected 
Western ideas and proposed, instead of a synthesis, the revival of 
the old religion of the Aryans who had invaded India around 1500 
B.c. and whose sacred books, the Vedas, were the foundation of 
Hinduism. Dayananda’s teaching was revolutionary, for it claimed 
that there was no Vedic authority for most of the customs of Hindu 
society - rigidity of caste, untouchability, or child marriage. In 1875, 
he founded in Bombay the Arya Samaj (‘Society of Noble Men’). 

To many orthodox Hindus, members of the Brahmo Samaj - the 
‘Brahmos’, as they were called - seemed distinctly irreligious. Their 
attacks on Hinduism as a religion in need of reform seemed to be a 
capitulation to Western critics. Many Brahmos did, indeed, express 
contempt for several aspects of Indian Hfe. They were themselves 
fully Westernized in their general behaviour. If they had chosen to 
become Christians (although very few educated Indians were, in 
fact, converted) orthodox Hindus could have ignored them. But 
they did not, and their desire to reform Hinduism by assimilating 



Western ideas appeared to be designed to subvert the very founda- 
tions of Hindu society. 

In the eyes of most Hindus, the government of India could not be 
a secular government. In Hinduism, there is no divorce between 
religion and society. According to this reasoning, the British govern- 
ment of India was a Christian government. Whatever its disclaimers, 
its aim was assumed to be total conversion of Indians to Western 
ideas, both social and religious. Orthodox Hindus saw the Brahmos 
as secret agents, preparing the ground by undermining Hinduism 
in order to make way for Christian missionaries. So, too, the moder- 
ates’ demand for poUtical reform was viewed as an attempt to 
entrench in the system those who most approved of that system. 
If Westernized Indians became involved in the process of govern- 
ment, they would have a hand in further reforming legislation. 
There seemed, in this, to be an overt threat to orthodox Hinduism. 

It was implicit in Dayananda’s desire to cleanse Hinduism that it 
should be revitalized and so become a force which might resist 
Westernizing tendencies. But there was more to the aims of the 
Arya Saniaj than that. The British had imposed on traditional 
Indian society a vast superstructure of Western law, economic 
organization, and administration. Whatever orthodox religious 
leaders believed, the government after the Mutiny had no intention 
of taking aggressive action, overt or clandestine, against the tradi- 
tional social order. But Western systems, in themselves, were 
continuously assaulting long-held customs and attitudes to life. For 
orthodox Hindus, there was no possibility of reconciliation. Cultural 
and religious freedom, they beHeved, could only be achieved 
through political freedom. As a contemporary Englishman put it, 
the logic of Dayananda’s view was that ‘the religion of India as well 
as the sovereignty of India ought to belong to the Indian people; 
in other words, Indian religion for the Indians, Indian sovereignty 
for tlie Indians’ [2]. 

Another stage in what might be called the rehabilitation of 
Hinduism was represented by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-86) 
and by his disciple and propagandist, Vivekananda (1862-1902). To 
traditional Hinduism they added the ideas of social service and of 
self-reliance. Vivekananda’s appeals on behalf of the downtrodden 
masses gave nationalist leaders an opportunity to express, in political 



terms, not just the demands of a minority but of the majority of 
India’s people. In his response to these appeals, Gandhi, in the 
twentieth century, helped to give the nationalist movement an 
apparendy broad base of resistance to British rule. Vivekananda’s 
rousing speeches to the young men of India, urging them to dedicate 
themselves to changing the lives of millions of their poor and starving 
fellow-countrymen, were to give nationalist sentiment not only a 
sense of reaUty but of purpose - and of a purpose entirely Indian 
in character. 

Hindu self-confidence was further bolstered by the work of the 
Theosophical Society founded in New York in 1875 by the Russian 
spiritualist, Madame Blavatsky. The society’s wholehearted accep- 
tance of Hinduism was expressed in a pseude -intellectual manner 
which had considerable appeal for Indians wlio had been repelled 
by the emotionaUsm of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. The society 
disseminated a wide - if mainly uncomprehending - knowledge of 
Hindu ideas to a large number of people in the West. The second 
president of the society was to be Mrs. Amiic Besant, who chose 
to be active in Indian politics and was even elected president of the 
Indian National Congress in 1917. 

In the nineteenth century, none of these movements specified, or 
even advocated, political action. What they did was supply a series 
of ideas and emotions which had to wait for a political vocabulary 
in which they might be expressed, as well as for leaders capable of 
using that vocabulary. Meanwhile, the moderate elements - the 
liberds, the gradualists, the hopeful co-operators with the British - 
continued to found quasi-political movements designed to persuade 
the British to grant liberal institutions to India, institutions through 
which these moderates could play a part in the government of their 
country. Whatever their political platforms, such movements still 
tended to represent the Hmited interests of the educated classes. 
The moderate leaders were, generally speaking, men with a secular 
oudook who believed that religion could be separated from politics. 
And, despite everything, they continued to believe in the funda- 
mental good faith of British intentions. Every time the British 
denied them the right to appointments at the higher levels of the 
civil service, they hid their embarrassment and, in their weakness, 
removed themselves even further from contact with the Indian masses. 



Nevertheless, the moderates played an extremely important role 
in developing the Westernizing strand in the complex of Indian 
nationalism. In their attempt to fmd in Western society a spur for 
Indian action, they looked to a wider field than English liberalism. 
They saw, in mid-nineteenth-century Europe, examples of men who 
challenged the old order of things. Garibaldi, Mazzini, and the others 
who formed the Young Italy movement inspired some of them with 
great hopes. They pointed to patriotism and to nationalism in its 
European sense as great and vital forces. 

Again, the initiative came from Bengal. The British Indian 
Association was so obviously a classporientated association that the 
middle classes felt it unsuitable for the expression of their interests. 
A number of Bengalis suggested that a strictly Bengali organization 
should be formed, but this was thought to be too parochial. An 
attempt was made to force the British Indian Association to open 
itself to a wider membership by reducing its subscription, but this 
was not successful. In 1875, a new organization, the India League, 
was formed in Calcutta to co-ordinate the activities of a number of 
district associations. Its aims were 'to ascertain and propagate the 
views of the people as to how Indians could progress in the political 
and other fields; to discuss and adopt the means which we should 
consider proper for the good of our countrymen and for the 
diffusion of political education amongst them; to devise and adopt 
legitimate means for safeguarding the interests of different classes; to 
stimulate the spirit of nationalism among the people; to adopt 
means for the development of economic resources of the country’[j]. 
The subscription (five rupees) was a tenth of what the British Indian 
Association asked, and artisans, cultivators and village headmen 
could join for a special subscription of one rupee - which was still 
quite a large sum. 

A year after the India League was formed, another organization, 
the Indian Association, was also founded in Calcutta. Among those 
present was Surendranath Banerjea (1848-1926), who had been one 
of the first Indians admitted to the Indian Civil Service but who 
had been dismissed in 1874 for what the secretary of state for India 
described as ‘a palpable misuse of his judicial powers' and for being 
‘guilty of falsehood’. In fact, he had failed to correct a false report 
by a subordinate - a crime for which his English colleagues would 



have received no more than a departmental reprimand. Surendran- 
ath’s appeal, when he presented himself in London, was dismissed, 
and he returned to India convinced that ‘the personal wrong to me 
was an illustration of the impotency of our people*. He determined 
to dedicate the rest of his life to ‘redressing our wrongs and pro- 
tecting our rights, personal and collective* [ 4 ]. 

The idea of a truly all-India organization was very much in the 
minds of the men present at the founding of the Indian Association 
in 1876, ‘for even then*, wrote Banerjea, ‘the conception of a united 
India; derived from the inspiration of Mazzini, or, at any rate, of 
bringing all India upon the same common pohtical platform, had 
taken firm possession of the minds of the Indian leaders in Bengal* [3]. 
An immediate attempt was made to identify the Indian Association 
with popular causes. The first crusade took up the complaint of 
third-class railway passengers at not having lavatories in the coaches. 
The association*s agitation was successful. 

The association held its first public meeting in March 1877 to 
protest at discrimination against Indian candidates for the Indian 
Civil Service. The age limit had been lowered from twenty-one to 
nineteen, and it was suggested at the meeting that examinations for 
the service should be held simultaneously in Britain and India, and 
not - as was the practice - in Britain alone. At the same meeting, 
Surendranath Banerjea was appointed as a special delegate whose 
duty was to visit other parts of India. He left Calcutta in May 1877 
for. an extended tour, during which he spoke at many public 
meetings. Surendranath made considerable impact on his audiences. 
It was necessary, he said at a meeting in 1878, to preach ‘the great 
doctrine of peace and good will between Hindus and Musulmans, 
Christians and Parsecs, aye between all sections of the great Indian 
community. Let us raise aloft the banner of our country’s progress. 
Let the word “Unity” be inscribed there in characters of glittering 
gold. . . . There may be religious differences between us. There 
may be social differences between us. But there is a common plat- 
form where we may all meet, the platform of our country’s wel- 
fare’ [ 6 ]. Under Surendranath’s influence, a number of organizations 
were established in different parts of India, designed to act in concert 
with the Indian Association. 

The association continued to agitate against discriminatory action 



by the government - against the Vernacular Press Act of 1878, 
against the removal of import duties on Lancashire cotton, and 
against continued discrimination in the public services. In t88o, it 
even sent a representative to Britain to help appeal to the electorate 
on behalf of the Liberal party, in which many Indians had placed 
their hopes of a new deal. 

In 1883, the Indian Association took advantage of an industrial 
exhibition in Calcutta to arrange a national conference, hoping to 
attract some of the many leading Indians who were expected in the 
city for the occasion. Early in the same year, Surendranath Banerjea 
had been imprisoned for two months on a charge of contempt of 
court, and this had brought his name to the attention of a wider 
pubhe. But when the national’ conference took place, it was still 
very much a local affair, three-quarters of the delegates coming from 
Bengal. Much emphasis was placed on the desirabihty of parlia- 
mentary government for India, and one speaker - the EngUsh writer, 
Wilfred Scawen Blunt - noted at the end of the conference: ‘So 
ended the first session of the Indian Parliament. May it be memorable 
in history’ [7]. 

The Indian Association held its second meeting in Calcutta in 
1885. At the same time, another body was holding its first meeting, 
in Bombay. This was the Indian National Congress, which was to 
lead the country to independence. 

Congress had its origin not so much in the spontaneous desires of 
Indians as in the considered policy of the government. After the 
disturbing events of Lord Ripon’s administration - particularly the 
British community’s success in resisting legislation to permit 
Europeans to be tried by Indian judges - there were signs of con- 
siderable unease amongst educated Indians. The Indian Association 
had protested vigorously against the government’s capitulation in 
face of civil service and British community disapproval. To educated 
Indians, it seemed as if even a Liberal viceroy was helpless against 
the conservatism of the British in India. The proposed Bill, known 
as the Ilbert Bill (after the Law Member, Sir Courtenay Ubert), 
aroused both sides to such an extent that the British-owned Calcutta 
newspaper, The Englishman, declared: ‘We are on the evo of a 
crisis which will try the power of the British government in a way 
in which it has not been tried since the Mutiny of i857’[#]. 



When Lord DufFcrin arrived as viceroy in 1884, his first task was 
to try and quieten the unrest caused by Ripon’s well-intentioned but 
basically weak administration. Dufferin soon developed a disUkc for 
educated Indians. ‘I have already discovered*, he wrote to the 
secretary of state in February 1885, ‘that the Bengalee Baboo is a 
most irritating and troublesome gentleman, and I entirely agree 
with you in thinking that we must not show ourselves at all afraid 
of him. He has a great deal of Celtic perverseness, vivacity and 
cunning, and seems to be now employed in setting up the machinery 
for a repeal agitation, something on the lines of O’Connell’s 
Patriotic Associations’ [p]. DufFcrin preferred to try and win the 
co-operation of the landed and other conservative elements. 

Something, however, had to be done in another direction. The 
tendency towards political association among the predominantly 
Hindu middle classes demanded some form of neutralizing encour- 
agement. The actual degree of government involvement in the birth 
of the Indian National Congress is, however, the subject of con- 
siderable controversy. The moving spirit was a former civil servant, 
Allan Octavian Hume, and it has been suggested that he and Lord 
Dufferin were entirely responsible. But there is no satisfactory 
evidence for this. There seems little doubt, however, that Dufferin 
welcomed Hume’s idea of ‘a safety valve for the escape of great 
and growing forces, generated by our own actions’ [ 10 ], and gave 
the proposal his support. 

Hume himself, it is claimed was motivated by having seen in the 
government’s Intelligence archives seven large volumes containing 
reports from all over India relating to the state of unrest. According 
to a memorandum allegedly preserved in' Hume’s papers: ‘Innumer- 
able entries referred to the secretion of old swords, spears and 
matchlocks, which would be ready when required. It was not 
supposed that the immediate result in its initial stages would be a 
revolt against our Government, or a revolt at all in the proper 
sense of the word. What was predicted was a sudden, violent out- 
break of sporadic crimes, murders of obnoxious persons, robbery of 
bankers, looting of bazaars. In the existing state of the lowest half- 
starving classes, it was considered that the first few crimes would 
be the signal' for hundreds of similar ones, and for a general develop- 
ment of lawlessness, paralysing the authorities and the respectable 




classes. It was considered certain also, that everywhere the small bands 
would begin to coalesce into large ones, like drops of water on a 
leaf; that all the bad characters in the country would join, and that 
very soon after the bands obtained formidable proportions, a certain 
small number of the educated classes, at the time desperately, perhaps 
unreasonably, bitter against the Government, would join the move- 
ment, assume here and there the lead, give the outbreak cohesion 
and direct it as a national revolt’ [ii\. 

If such evidence actually did exist - and no one else ever admitted 
to having seen it - Hume’s desire to divert the educated classes 
towards a graduaUst attitude could have been motivated by purely 
hberal and humanitarian feelings. The memory of the Mutiny was 
still strong in India, and no right-thinking person wanted a repetition 
of it. But, as such a view coincided with British self-interest, a 
Machiavellian interpretation has been put upon it. 

Any organization which polarized moderate and basically ‘loyal’ 
opinion was desirable from the government’s point of view. 
Dufferin and many others were fuUy aware that, in a fundamentally 
divided society, there was really no need for the British to initiate 
division. All classes of Indians - and the middle classes were no 
exception - would do it for them. Inter-communal and inter-class 
antagonisms were self-perpetuating. The government’s real concern- 
was to minimize violence and it seems very unlikely that, in 1885, 
it really considered it possible for the educated classes (already 
thorouglily alienated from the masses) actually to take control of 
a basically agrarian rebeUion, as Hume suggested. However, in the 
face of growing revivahst tendencies amongst Hindus, it was 
obviously sensible to encourage organizations of moderates. The 
government’s pohey was to maintain, and if possible extend, the 
division between moderates and extremists, and so it remained until 
the defeat of the moderates in 1918. 

The first meeting of the Indian National Congress took place in 
Bombay in December 1885. The names of seventy-two delegates 
were recorded, though more were probably present, including some 
Mushms. When the session of 1886 came, however, the secretaries 
of two Mushm bodies - the Mohammedan Association, fotinded in 
Calcutta in 1856, and the Central Mohammedan Association, 
founded in 1877 - refused to attend. Basically, the Muslims were 



not antagonistic to Congress, merely indifferent to it. This attitude, 
however, did not last long. 

In 1888, Hume, fully aware that Congress was national only in 
the sense that its members came from different parts of India, 
decided to engage in aggressive propaganda designed to rouse some 
political awareness in the masses. His propaganda included the 
preparation of what was called the Tamil Catechism - of which some 
thirty thousand copies were distributed in Madras - and other ver- 
sions in Urdu and English. The catechism included an attack upon 
the civil service and, though the strictures were extremely mild, the 
government chose to believe that they were inciting hatred against 
it. Hume was officially informed of the government’s displeasure. 
The propaganda was not particularly effective among Hindus, but 
it antagonized certain elements of Muslim opinion. 

Syed Ahmed Khan, leader of the educated Muslims, founded 
in 1888 the United Indian Patriotic Association, whose primary aim 
was to combat the influence of Congress. One of its objects was 
‘to strengthen the British Rule, and to remove those bad feelings 
from the hearts of the Indian people which the supporters of Con- 
gress are stirring up tliroughout the country, and by which great 
dissatisfaction is being raised among the people against the British 
Government* [12]. The majority of its members were Muslims and 
it expressed its anti-Congress feelings with a distinctly anti-Hindu 
bias “ though this was justified by members on the grounds that 
Congress was directed by Bengalis, who were antagonistic to Mus- 
lims. Syed Ahmed’s principal fear was that the pressure for demo- 
cratic institutions would lead to the Muslim minority being domi- 
nated by the Hindu majority. ‘If at any future time*, he wrote in 
1886, ‘there should be a Parliament with Hindus and Mohamme- 
dans sitting on the two sides of the house, it is probable that the 
animosity which would ensue would far exceed anything that can 
be witnessed in England. For the safeguard of the English system 
is - that the party in power is always in dread of being left in a 
minority by the defection of some of its adherents, but this safeguard 
would not exist in India because a Hindu would not turn Moham- 
medan and vice versa. Moreover the Mohammedans would be in a 
permanent minority and their case would resemble that of the 
unfortunate Irish members in the English Parliament, who have 



always been outvoted by the Englishmen. The majority in Parlia- 
\ment has absolute control and a study of the habit of assemblies 
points to the conclusion that bodies of men are less generous in 
Regarding opponents than individual rulers are. If this were so, 
and one side were perpetually outvoted, there is only too much 
Tear that the minority would ultimately take the matter into their 
own hands and see if they could gain by force what they were 
unable to obtain by constitutional means’ [13]. 

The attempts made to persuade Muslims not to support Con- 
gress were, however, none too successful. At the Congress session of 
1888, there were 222 Muslims out of a total of 1,248 delegates. 
Congress Muslims, too, were strongly antagonistic to Syed Ahmed, 
whose main purpose was to keep Muslims out of politics and to 
withhold their support from the democratic, liberal and funda- 
mentally secular aims voiced by Congress. Syed Ahmed did not 
really fear the organized middle classes - only that they might be 
successful in persuading the government to grant democratic insti- 
tutions, which would then, he thought, be used by extremist 
Hindus to discriminate against Muslims. 

Unfortunately, there was enough evidence of Hindu revivalism 
to confirm his worst fears. The activities of Swami Dayaiianda and 
others had distinctly anti-Muslim overtones, especially after the 
Cow Protection Society was estabhshed in 1882. This was directed 
against Muslims, who ate beef, as well as against Christians and 
the government which permitted the slaughter of cows. But 
Payananda did not openly take religion into politics. That was 
left to others. 

As in the case of most aspects of political action in India, the 
seeds of Hindu nationalism were first sown in Bengal. The works 
of Bankim Chandra Chatterjec - who had been one of the two 
students to graduate from the new Calcutta university in 1858 - sup- 
phed some of the inspiration. Bankim Chandra was a member of 
the civil service until 1891. It is a comment on the limitation placed 
on Indians in government service that he was appointed only as 
deputy magistrate and that he never advanced in rank. 

Bankim Chandra wrote in Bengali, using English Hterary forms. 
In his work, he praised Hindu religious sentiments and glorified 
the Hindu past. His poem, Bande Materam (‘Hail to the Mother’), 



became the anthem - the Marseillaise, even - of Hindu nationalism, 
identifying love of the mother country with love of god. Though 
for Bankim Chandra, the motherland was Bengal, it soon came to 
mean India and, specifically, Hindu India. In his novel, Anandamath 
(‘Abbey of Bliss’), he claimed that British rule was the essential 
prelude to a revival of Hinduism. Bankim Chandra Chatterjec was 
the prophet - and, in a sense, the ideologue - of cultural and reli- 
gious nationalism, and his work profoundly influenced the young 
Bengalis who were to turn to terrorism as their form of nationaUst 

This looking backwards to see a reflection of the future was 
at the base of the ideas of the man who was to unite rehgious senti- 
ment with positive poUtical action. He was not a Bengali, but a 
Maratha, a member of the race which had resisted British expan- 
sion at the beginning of the nineteenth century as it had resisted the 
Mughals in the seventeenth. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) had 
received a Western-style education at the Deccan College in Poona. 
His reading was wide, taking in most of the Hindu classics as well 
9S the works of Hegel, Kant, Mill, Bentham, Voltaire and Rous- 
seau. He was early determined to take up a poUtical career and 
beUeved that the way to acquire most influence was to estabUsh 
schools where patriotism and sacrifice could be taught. He had no 
objection to Western science, but believed that it should be ab- 
sorbed and restated in Hindu terms. 

For a time, Tilak co-operated with moderate elements in Bom- 
bay but, realizing that they had no mass support, he soon turned 
his attention to creating it for himself. He acquired a newspaper, 
the Kesari (the ‘Lion’), and through it began to promote two new 
annual festivals, one dedicated to the Hindu god, Ganesha - known 
in western India, where he was held in particular esteem, as Gana- 
pati - and the other honouring the Maratha hero, Sivaji, who 
had been the most consistent opponent of the Mughal empire. Both 
festivals were obviously anti-Muslim. The Sivaji festival was given 
even more point by the fact that it was held at the same time as the 
MusHm rehgious festival of Muhurram. 

Tilak’s propaganda activities and the spread of cow protection 
societies helped to cause considerable unease. In the North-West 
Provinces in 1893, there was Hindu rioting in certain districts and 



British troops had to be called out to restore order. Soon, there were 
similar riots in Bombay. The government seemed to think that Con- 
gress was behind the troubles. It was reported that trials had been 
held in imitation of normal courts of law, and that chapatis were 
being passed (the cakes of Indian bread which had been circulated 
just before the outbreak of die Mutiny). There was a great deal of 
violent writing in vernacular newspapers. In 1897, Tilak used the 
insensitive actions of pk^ue officers to arouse Hindu feelings. 

Bubonic plague had swept Bombay, killing some twenty thou- 
sand people, and in the sprit^ of 1897 the scourge spread through 
the countryside until it reached Poona. There the Plague Com- 
missionen adopted determined and brutal measures - exaedy what 
the situation required. Unfortunately, they carried them out with- 
out giving any explanation or attempting to involve the people 
themselves in implementing them. The chief plague officer - one 
Mr. Rand, who was the assistant Collector of Poona - used British 
troops to destroy property which was bcheved to be contaminated. 
It was arranged that men, women and children from infected areas 
should be segregated into special camps. While searching houses for 
people infected with the disease, the soldiers damaged shrines, some- 
times looted property, frequendy sent off to camps people who were 
in fact free from the plague. To the people of Poona, already un- 
nerved by the hideous epidemic, Rand and his' men seemed to be 
engaged on a senseless re^ of terror. Plague Commissioners came 
to be dreaded more than the plague itself. The rich fled the city, and 
panic and alarm roamed the streets. 

Tilak protested against what Rand and his men - this ‘vast engine 
of oppression’, as he called them - were doing. He warned the 
authorities that popular resentment was running high. ‘What people 
on earth, however dodle’, he thundered in the Kesari, ‘will con- 
tinue to submit to this sort of mad terror;’ In June 1897, Rand and 
his assistant were shot dead. A few weeks later, Tilak was arrested 
on a charge of sedition and, after a travesty of a trial, sentenced to 
eighteen months’ imprisonment. 

The news of Tilak’s ‘martyrdom’ spread throughout India, and 
his ideas became known to a large number of that new* class of 
young, partly Western-educated Indians who were suffering 
acutely from economic and social frustration. Religious nationalism* 



had a very wide appeal. It gave to the Brahmins - the highest caste 
and, consequendy, the natural leaders of the Hindu community ~ 
a vocabulary with which to resist the challenge to their traditional 
social and poHtical influence which was implicit in British rule. It 
offered the imemployed middle classes an oudet for their economic 
despair as well as a firm anchor within the traditional order from 
which their education had seemed to cut them loose. In the case of 
the peasants, the new nationalism mobilized the very gods of the 
Hindu pantheon in their defence and encouraged them to parti- 
cipate in a kind of religious crusade. And to yoimg hot-heads 
it offered the excitement of violence, of action rather than 

Nevertheless, religious nationalism had little appeal for those 
members of the middle classes - the doctors, the lawyers, the school- 
masters and businessmen - who were members of Congress and, 
after the Coimcils Act of 1892, of the legislative councils. Generally 
speaking, these men had little sympathy for the peasant and his 
troubles. It is an interesting fact that, throughout the whole period 
of the struggle for freedom, a large proportion of moderate 
nationalists came from the legal profession; their respect for the 
law reinforced other pressures in favour of legitimate means of 
agitation. By 1899, according to a confidential government report, 
almost 40 per cent (5,442) of the 13,839 delegates to the Indian 
National Congress were from the legal profession. The other large 
groups consisted of 2,629 representing landed interests, and 2,091 
from the commercial classes. The remainder was made up almost 
entirely of journalists, doctors and teachers. 

Congress, like the British Indian Association, was opposed to 
any reform of tenants’ rights, for although the legal profession 
might be indifferent to landlord and peasant alike, much of Con- 
gress’s financial support came from large landed proprietors. The 
commercial classes formed another interested party. They felt them- 
selves oppressed, and believed that British rule did not favour 
indigenous capitalists. They were only pardy r^ht because, though 
British rule undoubtedly favoured British business undertakings 
and did not actively encourage the growth of indigenous industry, 
development had been restricted primarily by' lack of Indian capital 
and enterprise. Furthermore, the Congress attitude to industrial 



reform, for example, showed that its members were no friends of 
the workers. 

The coming together of the educated classes, deprived of higher 
posts in the civil service, and of the businessmen who regarded 
themselves as discriminated against economically, was of profound 
importance in the struggle for freedom. It brought much-needed 
funds, as well as adding a further pressure in favour of non-violent 
reforms rather than bloody revolution, for Indian businessmen 
also brought the innate conservatism characteristic of capitalists of 
all races. 

This upper middle class minority - which, in the early days of the 
freedom movement (1886) numbered about 300,000 in a population 
of 180,000,000 - saw representative institutions as the only possible 
system which might satisfy its demands. It was not concerned with 
whether the British government was morally good or bad, but only 
with the fact that it was there - depriving educated Indians of their 
rightful jobs and profits. 

Congress continued to represent this section of Indian society. 
Religious nationalism, on the other hand, was to have its appeal 
to the growing, partly-Westemized, lower middle class. It was on 
these people that Westernization had a destructive effect. Being 
inadequately educated in an alien cultural tradition, they found 
themselves uneasy in their own. They became afraid of Western- 
style changes and saw no advantage for themselves in representative 
government, which they anticipated would favour the fully- 
Westemized upper middle classes rather than themselves. 

The period up to 1905 was essentially one of frustration. Con- 
gress appeared to be getting nowhere with its gradualist demands. 
Religious nationalism was spreading its influence but was hardly 
in a position to challenge the government by force. Muslims, who 
had been advised by Syed Ahmed to keep out of politics, did not 
seem to be gaining anything by their loyalty to the British. Tb?' 
situation was ripe for the acceptance of another European insti- 
tution - the secret society. The major influences were the Carbonari 
of Italy and the Irish Sinn Fein. The appeal of such societies was 
mainly romantic, for even such revivalist leaders as Tilak'did not 
approve of terrorism or accept that it could lead to Indian free- 
dom. Tilak believed in mass agitation, not in the isolated murder of 



British officials. Terrorism, indeed, was to remain only a tributary 
stream in the current of Indian nationalism. But the deeds of 
terrorists were followed avidly by young and old, and the idea of 
liberating India by force remained the hope of some nationalists 
right to the end of British rule. 

Under the pressures of extremism, the fortunes of the moderate 
leaders of Congress suffered continuous decline. Their loyal and 
peaceful agitation was regularly rebuffed by the British. The 
moderate leaders, however, were men of very real quality. Their 
tragedies were the depth of their Westernization and their trust in 
British good faith. (Not that this prevented them from criticizing 
British rule in India.) Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917), for example - 
a Parsee who was president of Congress in 1886, 1893 and 1906 - 
lived for some time in England and had the distinction of being 
elected to the House of Commons in 1892 on a Liberal ticket. His 
aim was to convince the British, and paiticularly the legislators in 
Britain itself, that they should grant liberal institutions in India. 
Mahadev Govind Ranade (1842-1901), who was a judge for thirty 
years and barred by his position from political activity, concen- 
trated on social and economic reform, and his activities persuaded 
others who were politically active that such reforms could not be 
divorced from poUtical action. Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866-1915) 
believed implicitly in gradualist reform and in co-operation rather 
than revolution. In 1905, Gokhale founded the Servants of India 
Society. ‘Its members’, he said, ‘frankly accept the British con- 
nection, as ordained, in the inscrutable dispensation of Providence, 
for India’s good. Self-government on the lines of English colonies 
is their goal. This goal, they recognise, cannot be attained without 
years of earnest and patient work and sacrifices worthy of the 
cause’ '[' 4 ] . These men all believed in service and in the working out 
of the pattern of British rule - through education and' the assimila- 
tion of ideas, to self-government. 

They were, however, engulfed by frustration, a reaction to their 
fundamental ineffectiveness. The British might have responded to 
them - and if they had, the history of India in the twentieth century 
would have been different. But they did not. The concessions asked 
for quietly and temperately by the moderates were given to others, 
and under duress. Some historians have seen, in the democratic 



BRITISH INDIA 1772-1947 

framework of independent India, the triumph of the liberals, but 
this may not be the verdict of die future. Their ideas certainly had 
some influence on the man who laid the foundations of inde- 
pendent hidia, Jawaharlal Nehru, but whether these foundations 
are permanent remains to be seen. 

In 1905, the divorce of the moderate leaders firom the trend of 
the times had become almost absolute. Their reasonable demands 
impressed neither the government nor other nationalist bodies. 
In the emotional excitement of Hindu revivalism, secret societies, 
and growing economic frustration, their ideas appeared spiridess 
and futile. 

For the very best of administrative reasons, the British decided 
to divide the vast province of Bengal in 1905. This move appealed 
to the government on other grounds than purely administrative 
ones. Lord Curzon - who viewed the matter purely in terms of 
efficiency - did not consider Indian responses important, primarily 
because he did not believe that Indian nationalism posed any real 
danger to the British. Others, less Olympian, thought otherwise. 
The heutenant-govemor of Bengal thought partition would be a 
blow to Bei^ali nationalists. He was right, and when partition was 
announced extremist agitators recognized that here was a situation 
which could be emotionally exploited. Extremists began agitation, 
and the moderates, fearful of being left behind. Joined in. Here at 
least was a great and specific issue which could give unity of pur- 
pose to all sections of the nationalist movement. 

Two weapons were to be used in the campaign, terrorism and the 
economic boycott. The boycott began in August 1904. It was 
widely supported, especially by Indian mill-owners, and the wearing 
of homespun cloth became one of the manifestations of the struggle 
for freedom. Secret societies were formed among students; bomb- 
throwers and political assassins became popular heroes and their 
funerals scenes of hysterical emotion. A number of murders 
occurred, the first in Muzaflapur in iS)o8. For his comments in 
the Kesari, Tilak - who had been active again after his release from 
jail - was sentenced to six yean’ imprisonment on a charge of incite- 
ment to murder. 

Terrorist activity was not confined to India. In is>09, Sir Curzon 
WyUie was murdered by a Punjabi at the Imperial Institute in 



London. This at least brot^ht home to the British public the 
existence of a nationalist movement in India. 

Extremist ideas had, in &ct, captured Congress. At the meeting 
at Benares in 1905, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai (1865-1928), who led the 
Punjab del^ation, and Bipin Chandra Pal (1858-1932), who 
headed the delegation Irom Bengal, joindy expressed the mood of 
the impatient. Tilak’s slogan, openly opposed to the moderates 
and their appeals for concessions, was ‘militancy - not mendicancy’. 
But the extremists were unable to take over actud control of Con- 
gress, pardy because of Dadabhai Naoroji, who was brought in for 
the 1906 meeting to effect a compromise. Congress’s moderate 
leaders officially accepted most of the extremists’ ideas but ex- 
pressed them in rather gender terms. 

The almost entirely Hindu agitadon against the parddon of 
Bengal was bitterly resented by certain Muslims. The parddon had 
at least given the predominantly Muslim populadon of East Bengal 
a new sense of freedom. Conservadve Muslims decided that they 
needed some kind of polidcal organizadon to counteract the effects 
of Coi^ress, and in 1906 the Muslim League was formed. In the 
same year, a Muslim del^don appealed to the viceroy for a guaran- 
tee of a separate electorate for Muslims in the coming reforms. 

The outbreak of the lint world war gave nadonalists a new 
sense of direcdon. The moderates in Congress hoped that new 
reforms would be granted. There was even an alliance in 1916 
between Congress and the Muslim League. But the slowness with 
which the British government moved towards reform discredited 
the old moderate leadenhip - although it did not in fact destroy 

In 1920, after the death of Tilak, control of Congress was taken 
over by Mahatma Gandhi, who drew for his philosophy of acdon 
on the most diverse of sources. The freedom movement now con- 
centrated on the single task of putting an end to British rule. 
Nadonalist acdvity, however, continued to take the forms of the 
past. Gandhi, for all that has been read into his life, was essendally 
a Hindu reformer who believed that no lasting reform was possible 
while an alien government ruled India. He was a Hindu nadonalist 
who differed brom the extremists in his firm belihf that loving black- 
mail was better than murder, that the British could be shamed into 



leaving India. Gandhi had received a Western education and had 
studied law in England. He was profoundly influenced by the pacifist 
anarchism of the Russian, Kropotkin. Tolstoy suggested to him the 
idea of passive resistance, though it was already present in the Hindu 
tradition. He firmly believed that large-scale violent action would 
only provoke large-scale oppression. By willingly submitting to 
suffering - to police violence and to imprisonment - he believed 
that Indians would make the British feel embarrassed and begin to 
question the rightness of their actions. No more improbable poUtical 
philosophy has ever been accepted as the ideology of rebeUion. 

Gandhi expressed his approach as ‘non-violent non-co-operation’. 
Though his idea was to encourage as many people as possible to 
break those laws which he believed were against the interests of 
the masses, and to do so peacefully, such action as did take place 
frequently led to violence. As fiir as ‘non-co-operation’ was con- 
cerned, Gandhi was actually co-operating with the British in main- 
taining civil peace by keeping Congress to what was, generally 
speaking, a non-violent pohey. His philosophy was not accepted 
by everyone, but, because of his saintliness, his overwhelming 
honesty, and his personal identification with the masses, he over- 
powered men who thought in violenc terms. 

Gandhi was a remarkably good judge of character, and he was 
able to see in Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) the liberal moderate 
hidden behind socialism and Marxist jargon. Gandhi himself, though 
he made many qualifications, rejected Western ideas and values. He 
was opposed to Western science and economics, and not particularly 
interested in pohtical institutions. He accepted that democracy 
meant ‘the awakening of the poorest of the poor’, but, beheving in 
the moral content of the democratic system, left it to others to con- 
sider the problems of estabUshing it. By giving his personal support 
to Nehru, Gandhi ensured that, at the moment of independence, 
the hopes of the Indian moderates - who had themselves played no 
real part in the freedom movement after 1918 - were in fact ful- 
filled. At independence, India took democracy as it took everything 
else the British had to leave. Not, indeed, that there was any real 
alternative. The institutions of parliamentary democracy existed, 
and were functioning. As Congress had demanded them, it was 
hardly likely that it would reject them. 



Gandhi, with his primary interest centred on radical religious 
and social reform, continued the tradition of such revivalists as 
Swami Dayananda. He looked to the Indian and, specifically, Hindu 
tradition for the instruments of reform. Essentially, he looked back- 
wards to mythical eras of innocence and universal good. In the dis- 
integration of Hindu life, he observed the evil effects ofWestem 
secular ideas. But he was shrewd enough to see that only by appeal- 
ing to the justice implicit in such ideas could the British be made to 
give up India. 

Gandhi’s views appear - and, indeed, were - contradictory. The 
saint and the politician are an uneasy mixture. Nevertheless, he 
gave to Congress the appearance of a mass identity. Congress, by 
being non-ideological in the political sense, could contain all 
idecdogies and allow no preponderance to any. Nehru, in spite 
of his impatience and revolutionary tongue, never broke away 
from Gandhi or from Congress, because he knew that the alter- 
native was genuine revolution and this was repugnant to him. 
Others, revolted by Gandhi’s medievalism and his indifference to 
the modem world, moved away into more positive action. 

rhe most important of such men was Subhas Chandra Bose 
(1897-1945). After being president of Congress in 1938, he ran for a 
second term against the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi and was forced 
to resign. Many Congressmen, including Nehru, were soon con- 
demning Bose as a fascist. Indeed, he had for some time been pro- 
pounding a synthesis between fascism and communism. ‘In spite 
of the antithesis between Communism and Fascism’, he wrote in 
1934, ‘there arc certain traits common to both. Both Communism 
and Fascism believe in the supremacy of the State over the indi- 
vidual. Both denounce parliamentarian democracy. Both believe 
in party rule. Both believe in the dictatorship of the party and 
ill the ruthless suppression of all dissenting minorities. Both believe 
in a planned industrial reorganisation of the country. These common 
traits will form the basis of the new synthesis. That synthesis is called 
by the writer “Samyavada” - an Indian word, which means 
literally “the doctrine of synthesis or equality”. It will be India’s 
task to work out this synthesis’ [15]. 

In 194T, after a dramatic escape from house arrest, Bose reached 
Germany and there formed the nucleus of an Indian national army. 



In 1943, he went to Tokyo and took over an organization known 
as the India Independence League, which had been founded in 
Japan as far back as 1916. Bose organized an Indian National Army 
from among prisoners of war, and hoped to arrive in India with the 
vanguard of the Japanese armies. This, however, was not to be, 
and in 1945 he died on Formosa from injuries received in an air 
crash. Bose was perhaps the only genuinely revolutionary Indian 
nationalist leader, and took a genuinely revolutionary road. He 
had no faith in gradualism or in parliamentary democracy as a 
system suited to economically and socially backward countries. 
He was deeply influenced by the romantic fascism of Nazi Ger- 
many, yet he represented the continuing achievement of religious 
and cultural nationalism. Though many of his pqlitical ideas came 
from Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union, his model for an 
independent India was based on the Turkey of Kemal Ataturk. 
When a strong central authority had solved the problems of social 
change, then, perhaps, the masses would be ready for democracy. 

Bose’s view that democratic institutions were irrelevant to 
Indian conditions was shared by men who wanted to overthrow the 
* British by violence inside India. The terrorist tradition continued to 
have its appeal. In the early years of the twentieth century, centres 
had been established abroad - in London, Paris and New York - 
where revolutionary literature could be prepared. Inside India, 
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1965) had founded the Hindu 
Mahasabha in 1919. Savarkar had a terrorist past and he was strongly 
critical of Gandhi and of Congress. 

In the 1 920s, the Mahasabha was openly anti-Muslim, and part 
of its public platform was that Indian Mushms must be reconverted 
to Hinduism. In 1925, its programme was described by Lala Lajpat 
Rai, who was then its president, ‘i. To organise Hindu Sabhas 
throughout . . . the country. 2. To provide relief to such Hindus . , . 
who need help on account of communal riots ... 3. Reconversion 
of Hindus who have been forcibly converted to Islam. 4. To organise 
gymnasiums for the use of Hindu young men and women. 5. To 
organise Sevasamitis (social service units). 6. To popularise Hindi. . . . 
7. To request the Trustees and Keepers of . . . Hindu temples to 
allow halls attached to the temples where people may gather to 
discuss matters of social and religious interest. 8. To celebrate Hindu 



festivals in a manner which may conduce to the promotion of 
brotherly feelings amongst the different sections of the Hindus. 

9. To promote good feelings with Mohammedans and Christians. 

10. To represent commimal interests of the Hindus in all political 
controversies, ii. To encourage Hindu boys to take to industrial 
pursuits. 12. To promote better feelings between Hindu agricul- 
turists and non-agriculturists. 13. To better the condition of Hindu 
women . . *[ 16 ]. Until the late 1930s, many members of the 
Mahasabha were also members of Congress. Two of the early 
Mahasabha leaders even became presidents of Congress. After 1939, 
however, the Mahasabha reflected Savarkar’s hatred of Congress 
and engaged in public attacks on Congress leaders. 

In the second world war, Savarkar, then president of the Maha- 
sabha, coined the slogan ‘Hinduise all politics and militarise Hindu- 
dom*. His strongly anti-Muslim attitude infected most members 
of the Mahasabha, and one of his close associates, N. V. Godse, 
assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 in revenge for what he felt 
v/as Gandhi’s betrayal of Hinduism by accepting partition. Savar- 
kar’s ideas - Hindu nationalism, aggressive and authoritarian - 
helped to create Hindu political organizations in independent India 
whose appeal to patriotic and religious sentiment give them a 
potentially powerful position in Indian politics. 

Under British rule, communism had very little influence in India 
though it greatly appealed to some Indian intellectuals. Marxism, 
that most secular of modem ideologies, found the groundwork 
for some of its activities already done by tlic politico-religious secret 
societies of Bengal. A number of Marxist parties, both communist 
and non-communist, were established. Some of these existed 
actually inside Congress. When Subhas Bose left Congress, he 
attempted to organize a Forward Bloc to luiite all the leftist groups. 
The bloc was banned in 1942, by which time Bose was in Germany. 
Communist parties, though some of their leaders attempted to form 
peasant organizations, played very little part in political activities 
in the last years of British rule. 

The fact that Congress was dominated by Gandhi, however 
eccentric his Hinduism may actually have been, convinced the 
majority of Muslims that Congress was a Hindu organization. The 
secularists within Congress increased Muslim fears by their open 



detestation of the communalist nature of Muslim political ideas. 
Ironically and tragically, the refusal of such men as Jawaharlal 
Nehru to accept the validity of Muslim fears only intensified them. 
Gandhi’s declaration of beUef In Hindu-Muslim unity was thought 
to be merely a ruse, and the statements made by Hindu nationalists 
were taken to represent the general view of Congress, regardless 
of what its leaders might claim. Furthermore, Congress’s continued 
support for parliamentary democracy emphasized the early fears 
of such Muslims as Syed Ahmed Khan that majority rule would 
mean Hindu rule. In the Indian situation, religion and politics could 
never be divorced. 

As the possibility of majority rule in a self-governing India was 
reinforced by democratic concessions, Muslims looked for some 
kind of protection. While the British remained, the Muslims be- 
lieved that the central government would not discriminate; it was 
still an authoritarian government and not under the influence of the 
Hindu majority. But remove the British, and Muslims feared that 
they would occupy a permanently minority position. The idea of a 
separate Muslim state had existed in the nineteenth century. In the 
twentieth, it appeared to be a necessity. Nevertheless, an outright 
political commitment to the creation of a separate state was slow in 
growing, partly because Muslim leaders were reluctant to accept 
that the British, who had favoured minorities in the 1909, 1919 and 
1935 reforms, would really desert them. In 1933, Chaudhuri Rahmat 
Ali coined the name ‘Pakistan’ for the sovereign Muslim areas he 
suggested should be created inside India. The word - which also 
means ‘land of the pure’ - was made up from the initial letters of 
the Punjab, Afghania (Rahmat Ali’s name for the North-West Fron- 
tier Province), Kashmir and Sind, with the suffix of -tan to repre- 
sent Baluchistan. (When the word Pakistan is written in Urdu, 
there is no ‘i’ in it.) 

Rahmat Ali’s emotionally expressed ideas had no effect when 
they were first published, but when Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876- 
1948) - a highly-Westcrnizcd Muslim lawyer who had left Congress 
partly because there were no personal opportunities in it for him, 
and partly because he recognized that Muslims needed a sense of 
political identity - gave new life to the Muslim League, it was almost 
inevitable that the Pakistan idea should be taken up. 



The general trend of Muslim politicians after the abortive pact 
with Congress in 1916 had been to continue the demand for con- 
stitutional safeguards from the British. But the poet and pliilosopher, 
Muhammad Iqbal (1873-1938), gave to Muslim intellectuals a new 
and inspired view of Islam. By suggesting in 1930 that, if Islam was 
to be preserved, it was necessary to create Islamic poUtical insti- 
tutions operating in sovereign Muslim areas, he supplied the ideo- 
logical framework for Pakistan. 

A more active attempt to create a sense of Mushm identity had 
been made by the Khilafat movement, which gained momentum 
during the first world war in response to the defeat of Turkey. 
Muhammad Ah (1879-1930), one of the original members of the 
Muslim League, symbolized the feelings of Indian Muslims at the 
treatment of their co-rehgionists. He was jailed by the British during 
the war and, after the dismemberment of the Turkish empire by the 
Treaty of Sevres, was able to arouse the Muslim community which, 
in its fear of mihtant Hinduism, had begun to look to the greater 
Islamic community outside India. At first, the Khilafat movement 
had the support of Gandhi and Congress, and they co-operated in 
action against the government. There was, however, a militant 
section of the Khilafat movement which was not averse to public 
violence. It was this section whose propaganda persuaded a large 
number of Muslims to emigrate to Afghanistan; when they arrived, 
they found neither organization nor welcome, and many were 
forced to return to India. In August 1921, the Moplahs - a Muslim 
community in Malabar - started a holy war against Hindus and, by 
doing so, revived scarcely latent communal tensions. 

When the caUphate in Turkey was abolished in 1924 by Kemal 
Ataturk, the Khilafat movement ceased to exist. Muhammad Ali 
himself became more and more convinced that Congress was 
dominated by Hindus. When, in 1930, Congress began its second 
civil disobedience campaign, he advised Muslims not to support it. 

Muhammad Ali gave Muslims the taste of mass action, Iqbal 
supplied an ideology, Rahmat Ali the name of a country, and Jmnah 
the reality of independence. In 1940, under Jinnah’s leadership, the 
Muslim League accepted the principle of a separate state for India’s 
Muslims. ‘Mussalmans’, he said, ‘are a nation according to any 
definition of a nation, and they must have their homelands, their 



territory, and their state. We wish to live in peace and harmony 
with our neighbours as a free and independent people. We wish 
our people to develop to the fullest our spiritual, cultural, economic, 
social, and poHtical hfe in a way that we think best and in con- 
sonance with our own ideals and according to the genius of our 
people. Honesty demands and the vital interests of milhons of our 
people impose a sacred duty upon us to find an honourable and 
peaceful solution, wliich would be just and fair to all. But at the 
same time we caimot be moved or diverted from our purpose and 
objective by threats or intimidations. We must be prepared to face 
all difficulties and consequences, make all the sacrifices that may be 
required of us to achieve the goal we have set in front of us" [17]. 

Jinnah hoped to achieve a Muslim state by refusing to accept 
anything else. This left the creation of Pakistan to Vhe British who, 
at the end, remained faithful to the principle of separate electorates 
- and partitioned India. It was a long shot on Jinnah’s part, but it 
came off. 

Other Muslims thought more in terms of positive action. One 
movement was known as the Khaksars, a para-military organization 
(founded in 1931) with social service leanings. Its founder, Mashriqi, 
is said to have been a brilliant scholar at Cambridge, and he pro- 
pounded the thesis that Islam was the law of natural progress. 
‘Islam becomes", he said, ‘the most successful and universal principle 
of nation-building and all religious and moral injunctions become 
means serving that end. It becomes, so to speak, the infaUible and 
divine sociology" [18]. The Khaksar movement professed a sort of 
Mushm communism (the word ‘khaksar" means ‘humble’). Its 
symbol was the spade. It also believed in military training. The 
Khaksars were involved in civil disturbances in Lucknow in 1939, 
and in March 1940 attempted a coup d'etat in Lahore (Punjab). 
Mashriqi, though he denied having had anything to do with the 
attempt, was arrested and the Khaksar movement was banned. 
Mashriqi tried to turn the movement back to social service, and in 
1943 he was released from jail. By the end of British rule, the 
Khaksars had abandoned their mihtant views and become what was 
virtually a pressure group within the MusUm League. 

All the political movements of British India - the moderates, the 
extremists, the Hindu revivahsts and the Muslim nationalists - were 



dominated, in the main, by middle class. Western-educated leaders. 
The variety of their responses to the impact of Western ideas ensured 
the widest variety of poUtical expression. In the twentieth century, 
they realized that any goal of self-government could only be 
reached with the support of the masses. Unfortunately, there was 
no way of achieving such mass support for the alien concepts of 
Western Hberalism without resort to religion, and this inevitably 
led to communal violence. The middle classes created India’s 
political life. Through their actions, they won freedom. But they 
also created the division of India - and that is a tragedy which has 
still not worked itself out. 



India and the West 


Indian Influences on 
Western Ufle and Culture 

F rom the very earliest times, India has made its contribution to 
the texture of Western thought and living. Throughout the 
hteratures of Europe, tales of Indian or^in can be discovered. 
European mathematics - and, through them, the full range of 
European technical achievement - could hardly have existed with- 
out Indian numerals. But until the beginning of European colon- 
ization in Asia, India’s contribution was usually filtered through 
other cultures. 

Direct contact did not bring understanding; travellers’ tales, 
rather, increased the sense of wonder. Even commerce helped to 
feed the imagination, for its trading cargoes - of bezoar stones, 
musk, silk and pearls - were luxuries, exotic and non-European. 
The ‘gorgeous East’ became an essential part of the Western view 
of India, influencing the ideas of merchants as well as of poets. 

In the second part of the eighteenth century, works of travel, 
memoirs and histories increased enormously in number, and from 
them Europe began to assemble an image of India less concerned 
with physical wonders than with ideas. The philosophers, always 
on the lookout for some ideal civilization, first thought they had 
found it in China, then began to consider India a more likely place. 
By I775i Voltaire was convinced that Western astronomy and 
astrology had come from somewhere along the River Ganges. The 
French astronomer, Bailly, who was guillotined during the French 
Revolution, maintained that the Brahmins of India had been tutors 
of the Greeks and, through them, of Europe. Towards the end of the 
eighteenth century, there was a general feeling amongst European 
intdUectuals that Indian civilization was of great antiquity - but it 
was only a feeling, for they did not have access to Indian hterature. 



Very little was known about it, and no translations from Sanskrit, 
the literary language, had appeared. 

The first adaptation of a Sanskrit work into a Western language 
had appeared as early as 1651; this was of a collection of lyrics by 
the poet Bhartrihari, who died c. a.d. 651. The adaptation was, in 
fact, a paraphrase in Dutch prose of a version in Portuguese. The 
existence of Sanskrit had been known for some time in theWest, 
but as it was a sacred and liturgical language used only by the 
priestly caste for ritual observances, it was difficult to find a Brahmin 
wiUing to teach it to a European. Jesuit missionaries had acquired 
some knowledge of the language, and it was a work compiled by 
them - Ulizoiir Vedam, a highly inaccurate version of the yajur veda 
- which was to influence Voltaire. In 1762, a young Frenchman, 
Anquctil Duperron - who had discovered a manuscript in a Paris 
shop and had gone out to India as a soldier in the service of the 
French East Indi.i Company in order to learn how to decipher it- 
returned to Paris with a number of manuscripts, one of which was 
a Persian version of sixty sections of the ancient Hindu work, the 
Upanishads, fliis he published in 1801-2 in a peculiar mixture of 
Persian, Latin and Greek. Duperron’s work, known as the Oupnekhat, 
so affected the German pliilosophcr, Schopenhauer, that he later 
claimed: ‘It has been the solace of niy life, it will be the solace of 
my dcath’f/]; 

The real revelation of Sanskrit literature, however, was to come 
as a byproduct of the establishment of direct British rule in Bengal. 
Warren Hastings encouraged the study of Sanskrit for a purely 
practical purpose - to ascertain the nature of Hindu law. A number 
of digests were first prepared, but these were foimd to be inadequate 
and it proved necessary to go to the original sources. Nevertheless, 
the first published translation from the Sanskrit was not of a law 
book, but of the great philosophical poem, the Bhagavad Gita. This 
appeared in 1785, and was the work of Charles Wilkins (1749- 
1836). The Bliagavad Gita is a series of dialogues between the god 
Krishna and the hero, Arjuna. They arc fundamentally concerned 
with the moral problem of how men may govern their actions and 
arc expressed in extremely esoteric terms. In his preface, Wilkins 
noted that the work was only imperfectly understood even by the 
most learned Brahmins of the time. It was even less likely to be 



understood by Europeans, and its publication had no immediate 

William Jones’s translation of the play Sakuntala, by the dramatist 
Kalidasa (r. a.d. 400), was a very different matter. Jones, who had 
been appointed a judge at Calcutta in 1783, helped to found the 
Asiatic Society of Bengal in the following year. He first translated 
Sakuntala into Latin, maintaining that it was the only European 
language which had any resemblance to Sanskrit. He then trans- 
lated.thc Latin version into English, and it was this, first published 
in 1789, which was later translated into other European languages. 
To his translation, Jones added no notes and only a very short 
preface, assuming perhaps that his English readers would already be 
sufficiently acquainted with Hindu mythology and Indian life 
through the publications of the Asiatic Society. Some of them 
undoubtedly were, and there are traces of Indian ideas in the works 
of Shelley and Wordsworth, among others. But the real effect of 
Jones’s work and of other translations from Sanskrit was to appear 
in the poets and writers of early nineteenth-century Germany. 

The passionate enthusiasm with which the German romantics 
were to grasp at India and Indian ideas owed a great deal to the 
pioneer work ofjohann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803). He had early 
acquired from works of travel a reverence for India which was 
reinforced by the translations of Wilkins and Jones. In his preface 
to the second German edition of Sakuntala (first translated by Forster 
in 1791), Herder maintained that, on the Ganges, that river of 
paradise, the golden age actually did exist. 

The discovery of Indian ideas came at a time of profound in- 
tellectual upheaval in Europe. The French Revolution and its 
aftermath shook even more than the social and political foundations 
of Europe. Writers and philosophers had become receptive to new 
modes of thought, and India seemed capable of satisfying them. 
Paris was then the centre of oriental studies, and one of the East 
India Company’s servants, Alexander Hamilton, had been detained 
there by the outbreak of hostilities between Britain and France. 
Hamilton was something of a Sanskrit scholar, and came in contact 
with A. L. dc Chezy, who had taught himself the language. From 
these two men, Friedrich Schlegel - who had journeyed to Paris in 
1802 in quest of the new Indian vision of life and happiness - 



acquired a knowledge of Sanskrit. In 1803, he was able to claim 
that he had become such an expert copyist of Sanskrit characters 
that he could have earned his living as a scribe in India. 

The reaction of German writers to India followed two distinct 
lines. Schlegel represented a longing for harmony between the arts 
and sciences, for that imity of philosopy, religion and art which 
had existed in the Middle Ages but which had been broken by the 
progress of Western civilization. Schlegel and those who thought 
like him believed that such a unity still existed in India, and that 
Hinduism represented a synthesis of personal, social and political 
life. They thought that the Hindu world offered a concrete ideal, 
a genuine example for a politically divided Europe. They were 
sure that, through a meeting of the cultures of Eas^t and West, the 
most profound revelation of the human spirit could be achieved. 
T his vast structure of hopes was based upon the most meagre of 
foundations. In the mind of the romantics, legend had taken on the 
lineaments of reality. 

They did, in fact, realize this at the time, and it was their desire 
to reinforce assumptions with fact - or, rather, with a wider range 
of data - which produced the second line of interest in Germany, 
that of comparative linguistics. Unwilling to receive Indian ideas 
only by way of translation, the romantics encouraged the scholarly 
study of Sanskrit. Ironically, this withered the ideal. Friedrich 
Schlegel, disillusioned, turned away from India. Others, such as 
the mythologist Friedrich Majer (1772-1818) and the philosopher 
Schelling (1775-1854), whose thought has a particularly Indian cast, 
kept the image alive. But even to them, it was no longer the image 
of a golden age. 

India had considerable influence on German creative writers. 
Goethe, though not overwhelmed by India, received Sakuntala with 
enthusiasm. The prologue to Faust is modelled on that of Kalidasa’s 
play. Goethe also utilized other Indian themes and, though he found 
the Hindu gods repulsive, he did not object to idealizing suttee in 
his play Gott und die Bajadere {God and the Dancing-girl). The poetess 
Karolinc von Gundcrode (1780-1806) converted suttee into an 
almost erotic rite of love, in which the lovers are united in the eternal 
embrace of nature. The dramatist Schiller (1759-1805) borrowed 
from Kalidasa’s poem Meghaduta {The Cloud-Messenger). E. T. A. 



HofFman (1776-1822) used India to supply the fantastic imagery of 
some of his stories; in Der Goldene Topf, Sanskrit becomes a magical 
language whose script resembles the forms of nature itself. By the 
time of Heinrich Heine (1799-1856), however, India’s power over 
the German literary imagination had fallen into decline. The 
commonplaces of Sanskrit literature - the sacred river, the lotus 
blossom, the love of animals - become symbols, part of the poetic 
vocabulary and no more. 

India had no great effect upon French writers beyond supplying 
an occasional exotic image, despite the fact that French oriental 
scholarship was of a particularly high order and there was constant 
intercourse between scholars and poets. This was mainly because 
the French intellectual climate was very different from that of 
Germany. French romanticism was not so much a quest for eternal 
truth as a search for new literary forms and language, josephe Mery, 
whose novels Les Damnh de Vinde and La Guerre du Nizam went 
into many editions in the mid-nineteenth century, was described in 
his time as the most Hindu poet who ever existed. It is difficult, 
today, to see why. 

It was the American poets of the transcendentalist school who 
were to be the real heirs of German romanticism and its enthusiasm 
for Indian ideas. This came about principally through Thomas 
Carlyle (1795-1881), the Scots historian and essayist, and his trans- 
lations and criticism of some of the German poets. The American 
transcendentahsts, of whom the most important was Ralph Waldo 
Emerson (1803-82), fundamentally represented a reaction against the 
puritan prejudices and the materialistic philistinism of the emergent 
American society. The sources of their ideas were an odd mixture 
of Plato and Swedenborg, German idealism, Carlyle, English poets 
such as Coleridge and Wordsworth, and translations of oriental 
literature. Emerson had some acquaintance with Sanskrit texts, and 
his view of the omnipresent deity and of the human personality as 
a passing phase of Universal Being is contained in what is almost a 
paraphrase of part of the Bhagavad Gita, his poem Brahma. Emerson’s 

If the red slayer thinks he slays 
Or if the slain thinks he is slain 



They know not well the subtle ways 
I keep, and pass, and turn again. 

arc very close to Krishna’s words to Arjuna: ‘He who deems 
This to be a slayer and he who thinks This to be slain, are alike 
without discernment; This slays not, neither is it slain’ [2]. 

As the British became more sure of their position in India and 
developed a sense of mission, there grew up a contempt for Indian 
culture. This was pardy due to cultural arrogance on the part of the 
British, who dismissed Indian literature as pagan rubbish and Indian 
science as primitive nonsense. Macaulay disposed of ‘the whole 
native literature of India’ as ‘medical doctrines which would dis- 
grace an English farrier - Astronomy, which would move laughter 
in girls at an English boarding school - History, abounding with 
kings thirty feet high, and reigns thirty thousand years long - and 
Geography, made up of seas of treacle and seas of butter’ [5]. Such 
an attitude tended to discredit Indian culture in the eyes of Victorian 
England, and to give eccentric and non-conformist overtones to any 
interest in it. There are very few references to India, let alone Indian 
influences, in English creative literature, although in the twentieth 
century a growing interest in Eastern philosophy - which had begun 
in the 1890s - influenced the work of such poets as W. B. Yeats 
and ‘AE’. Towards the end of his life, the latter, in collaboration 
with an Indian, produced a version of the Upanishads (1937). 

Fortunately, the attitude of Macaulay and others did not affect 
scholarly research which, since it satisfied the Victorian criterion of 
scientific curiosity, was not regarded as eccentric in its Indian 
manifestation. In 1870, there began in France the publication of the 
Bibliotheque Orientate. Four years later, in England, came the great 
scries of Sacred Books of the East, under the editorship of Friedrich 
Max-Miiller (1823-1900). Between them, these two series were to 
make the Hindu scriptures available for the first time to the general 
reader. In 1875, Janies Fergusson published his History of Indian and 
Eastern Architecture, the first important work on the subject. The 
new interest in Hindu literature and art had its parallel in the study 
of Pali literature and of the Buddhist scriptures written in that 

The message of the Buddha was little known before the middle 



of the nineteenth century. Brian Hodgson, the British representative 
in Nepal, had indeed collected Buddhist manuscripts there in the 
early years of the century, and James Prinsep, another servant of 
the East India Company, had deciphered inscriptions of the Bud- 
dhist emperor, Asoka. But these were known only to a very small 
number of Europeans until Eugene Bumouf published his immensely 
influential Introduction a VHistoire de Boiiddhism Indien in 1844. 
R. Spence Hardy’s Manual of Buddhism appeared in 1853, and five 
years later a popular life of the Buddha by Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire 
was pubUshed in France. 

The discovery of the Buddhist scriptures went on, and their 
influence can be traced in the works of such disparate personalities 
as Richard Wagner and Tolstoy, as well as in the paintings of 
Odilon Redon (1840-1916) and others. Perh ps the most superb 
example of Buddhist influence can be found in the works of Herman 
Hesse, particularly his mystical novel Siddartha (1926). In the case 
of Wagner, both Buddhist and Hindu ideas had a tremendous 
appeal. His knowledge of Buddhism was acquired alm,ost entirely 
from Burnouf. Wagner absorbed Indian ideas and transformed them 
to suit his aesthetic purpose. They appear in the libretti of such 
operas as Parsifal (1882), in which he used an episode from the great 
epic of the Ramayana (r. 400 b.c.). In a sense, he succeeded in pro- 
ducing a synthesis of East and West, and from it derived the materials 
of a universal drama. In this, he was in a direct line from the early 
German romantics. 

In the works of European philosophers, there is a continuing 
thread of ideas which are Indian in origin. Some of these ideas can 
be traced in the works of the racialist ‘historians’, begiiming with 
Arthur de Gobineau (1816-82) and his Essai sur Vlncjjalite des Races 
Humaines (1853-55), developing through the theories of the 
violently pro-German EngUshman, Houston Stewart Chamberlain 
{Grundlagen des neunzehnten fahrhunderts, 1899) to those of Alfred 
Rosenberg, the ‘philosopher’ of Nazism, who invented an Indian 
proverb to the effect that ‘right is what Ar) an men consider to be 

Gobineau originally argued that the races of tlie world were 
unequal, that by mingling they changed character, and that tlic 
white races - the Aryans - were superior to all. Gobineau drew 



many of bis ideas from bis own interpretation of the history of the 
‘Indo-Aryans’, a tribe of light-skinned, blue-eyed nomads who 
invaded northern India about 1500 b.c. The Indo-Aryans were 
extremely colour-conscious and passed laws to preserve themselves 
&om the defiling blood of the dark-skinned peoples they had 
conquered. But the races mixed nevertheless. Gobineau pointed at 
the India of his own day to demonstrate what happened to a race 
which did not protect the purity of its blood. The Indo-Aryans had 
compromised with circumstance and intermarried, only in the 
course of time to be conquered by the more virile Aryans of the 
West. The ‘Aryan &mily’, said Gobineau, was ‘the most noble, the 
most intelligent, the most dynamic’. To Gobineau’s support came 
the science of comparative linguistics, which discovered that a 
number of European languages had something in common with 
Sanskrit. This led to a su^esdon that all the languages concerned 
had a common Aryan root. Gobineau believed that, of all the 
Aryans, the Germanic tribes were the purest. Chamberlain took 
this belief, added to it the discoveries of comparative lii^uistics, and 
declared that the German race consisted only of those who spoke 
the German language - a curious theory, whose logical extension 
would be that an English-speaking Bengali from Calcutta is Ei^lish 
by race. From Chamberlain, the ominous ideas of blood and race 
were taken up by Hider and Rosenberg, to end.(it is to be hoped) 
in the crematoria of Dachau and Buchenwald. 

Madame Blavatsky (1831-91) was another myth-maker whose 
work had considerable - though fortunately less perverse - influence 
on European thoi^ht in the late Victorian period. In 1880, in the 
company of an American, Colonel Olcott, with whom she had 
worked during a series of spiritualist seances she had given in the 
United States, Madame Blavatsky went to India. From there, she 
was able to reveal to those Westerners who had become disillusioned 
with orthodox religion and were on the lookout for some other 
means of satisfyii^ their appetite for miracles, that the world was 
under the guidance of a number of mahatmas residing at some im- 
precise location in Tibet. The Theosophical Society which she had 
founded in New York in 1875 propagated an elaborate an 4 rather 
insecurely-based philosophy owing much to Hinduism, though it 
was largely dressed up in Christian terms. The society had a con- 



siderable v(^;ue under its second president, Mrs. Annie Besant 
(1847-1933), who was, in &ct, to play a helpful role in the cause 
of hidian nationalism. Though the society’s view of Hinduism was 
unscholarly and uncritical, it did penuade a large number of people 
in the West to read some of the Hindu classics. 

It was, however, left to Swami Vivekananda (1862-1902) to 
create the popular image of fiodia and to supply the vocabulary with 
which Indian ideas have been expressed in the West. Vivekananda, 
a disciple of the Bengah ascetic and visionary, Ramakrishna Para- 
mahamsa, wrote in English. He produced an idealised vision of India 
- spiritual, non-violent, the repository of life’s secrets - which has 
had a persistendy misleading effect. Another man who was to 
contribute to Western misunderstanding of Hindu ideas was the 
Hindu reformer and nationalist leader, Mohandas Karamchand 
Gandhi (1869-1948), though he did so less by intent than by the 
uncritical assessment of those who beheved (and still beUeve) that 
his ‘philosophy of non-violence’ was the instrument of hidian 

• » « 

The influence of Indian art and architecture in the West has been 
sUght. The true appreciation of Hindu sculpture and Mughal 
miniatures, for example, had to wait until the twentieth century, 
and it remains to this day primarily a connoisseur’s interest. 

The expansion of Britidi dominion attracted a number of British 
artists to the Company’s territories in India. Their drawings of 
scenery and buildings were published in Britiun. Between them, 
artists and ei^ravers produced an idealized view of Indian architec- 
ture and topography. 

Thomas and William Daniell - whose collection of coloured 
aquatints. Oriental Scenery, was published between 1795 and 1808 - 
illustrated many hidian buildings, and Thomas Daniell collaborated 
in designing an Indian villa at Sezincote in Gloucestershire (1806). 
Daniell was responsible for a temple, a bridge and a fountain, while 
Samuel Pepys Cockerill - surveyor to the East India Company - 
produced plans for the house, which was based on the tomb of 
Haidar Ali Khan in Hyderabad. 



In 1807, George, Prince of Wales, visited Sezincotc and later 
commissioned the landscape gardener, Humphry Repton (who had 
laid out the gardens at Sezincotc), to advise on reconstructing the 
prince’s pavilion at Brighton in the Indian style. The prince had 
already employed William Porden, one of Cockcrill’s pupils, to 
design stables at the pavilion, and these bore a distinct resemblance 
to Sezincotc. Repton’s designs, which also owed much to Sezincotc, 
were not carried out because the prince was short of money, but 
in 1815 John Nash, the prince’s personal architect (who had once 
been in partnership with Repton), was commissioned to re-design 
the pavilion. The result, which still stands today, was an exotic 
tribute to the romantic image of India. 

The pavilion at Brighton influenced two other buildings. The 
American circus proprietor and impresario of the bizarre, P. T. 
Barnum, had the design adapted (extremely loosely) for his home, 
‘Iranistan’, at Bridgport in Connecticut, which was completed in 
1848 but has since been destroyed. An even more curious adaptation 
liad been constructed a few years earlier (between 1837 and 1840) 
at Alupka in the Crimea. This building was commissioned by Count 
Woronzow-Daskow to designs by the English architect, Edward 
Blorc, and is a mixture of the Oriental and the Gothic. The building 
still survives; indeed, it was used by the late Winston Churchill 
during the Yalta conference of 1945. But apart from some early 
buildings with Indian-influenced detail and a mid-nineteenth-century 
casde in Portugal, Indian architecture had little other influence upon 
that of the West. 

* ♦ ♦ 

During the early period of European trade with India, the principal 
items imported from that country were textiles such as the extremely 
fine muslins from Dacca in Bengal. Their appeal lay in their texture, 
and though there was a well-known range of ‘Indian’ designs these 
turned out to have been supplied from Europe in the first place. 
Later, European factories even came to reproduce them. Part of the 
reason for the lack of interest in India wares was that chinoiserie 
and classical designs were predominant in the eighteenth century. 
But it also had a good deal to do with the temperament of the 
returning English merchant who, having made liis fortune in India. 



came home to spend it. The ‘nabobs’, as they were called, were 
anxious to be absorbed into English society. There, merchants were 
viewed with some distaste, as were eccentricities - in oriental or any 
other shape. There was little point, or advantage, in displaying such 
eccentricities, either in business or in art. The nabobs aped current 
fashions among the British nobility and chose a Palladian mansion 
rather than an Indian villa. If they brought back with them some 
Eastern wares, these were usually Chinese. 

Such Indian influences as did appear were mainly in the field of 
pattern. The characteristic Kashmir design of the teardrop was to 
live on in the so-called ‘Paisley pattern*. Kashmir shawls had been 
imported into Europe at a very early stage and soon inspired 
imitations. The first were produced at Norwich in 1784, though the 
products were not actually shawls but embroidered neckcloths 
intended for export to the new United States of America. Other 
imitations were produced in Edinburgh and, about 1808, in Paisley, 
near Glasgow. At the beginning, attempts were made to bring the 
Kashmiri shawl-goat which produced extremely soft wool - to 
Britain, but the experiment was not successful. In France, the 
Empress Josephine possessed between three and four hundred 
Kashmir shawls, and the demand among fashionable ladies increased 
to such an extent that French manufacturers began to make imita- 
tions. By the middle of the nineteenth century, trade in Kashmir 
was dominated by French merchants and Kashmiri weavers were 
producing their patterns from designs originally born in France. 
France itself was producing shawls with designs supposedly imitating 
genuine Kashmir, and these in turn were copied by weavers in 
Paisley - the final product being a particularly fine example of 
cultural synthesis! 

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations 
which was held in London in 1851 inspired considerable interest in 
the ‘industrial arts’. A number of Indian wares displayed in the 
Crystal Palace attracted a great deal of attention, and Indian designs 
began to appear on brassware, textiles, and in jewellery. But the 
influence was not creative, and most of the products merely added 
a touch of the exotic to the bric-a-brac of the average middle-class 
Victorian home. 

* # * 




The returning nabobs and their successors in the civil and military 
services of India brought back with them a liking for certain Indian 
dishes, and introduced them into the repertoire of British cooking. 
By as early as 1773, curry had become a speciality of at least one 
London coffee house - though even curry owed something to the 
West, for one of its principal ingredients, chilli (or red pepper), 
had first been introduced into India by the Portuguese. Mulliga- 
tawnay soup - the name is a corruption of milagu-tannir, the Tamil 
for ‘pepper water* - has had a long life in Britain, though not per- 
haps as wide a diffusion as curry, which with the advent of com- 
mercial curry powder, has become a convenient way of disguising 
left-over cold meats. With polo, introduced into England in 1870, 
and the pyjama (from the Hindu pae-jama, ‘leg-clothing*), the 
influence of things Indian on European, and in particular, British 
life seems very small for so long a connexion. Cultural penetration 
is often subtly expressed and underground in its effect, but the 
‘revelation’ of India which took place over the years of British rule 
added up to little more than an imperfect acquaintance with a few 
examples of Hindu literature, yogic exercises, and the exotic belief 
that somewhere in the labyrinth of Hindu metaphysics lay some 
marvellous panacea for the ills of the Western world. 

The reasons are not hard to find, but one of the factors which 
contributed was that the men and women who ‘interpreted* India 
to the West were almost all Europeans. Very few Indians tried to 
explain Indian ideas, and it must be admitted that, when they did, 
they brought little enlightenment. 

On the whole, except in the case of a few scholars and writers, 
the public’s view of India remained fairly constant throughout the 
nineteenth century and until the end of British rule. It was a land of 
vast extremes of poverty and riches, of rajas, jewels, dancing girls 
- and Mahatma Gandhi. Fundamentally, it is a view that has 
changed very little, even since independence. 



An Example of Cultural Penetration: 
Indian Words in English 

AS the British estabhshed their connexion with India they were, 
h\ not unnaturally, forced to acquire at least some casual know- 
-^ledge of the languages used by the people with whom they 
fnst traded and then came to rule. The British are said to be bad 
linguists. Though there is httle justification for such a canard - unless 
‘bad’ is taken to mean ‘lazy’ - it is nevertheless true to say that very 
few merchants or administrators in the first half-century learned to 
speak a local language with any degree of fluency. There were 
exceptions, of course. Warren Hastings, for example, composed 
rather bad verses in Persian. But in general the Company’s servants 
reUed upon interpreters in their commercial and social relations 
with Indians. 

They did, of course, learn the meaning of a large number of 
words - commercial, judicial and revenue terms - and mixed them 
with their normal speech. The Company’s records are full of sen- 
tences peppered with Indian words in a wide variety of transHter- 
adons. Edmund Burke was driven to complain in the House of 
Commons that this hybrid language was probably ‘of necessary use 
in the executive department of the Company’s affairs; but it is not 
necessary to Parliament. A language so foreign from all the ideas 
and habits of the far greater part of the members of the House, has 
a tendency to disgust them with all sorts of inquiry concerning this 
subject. They are fatigued into such a despair of ever obtaining a 
competent knowledge of the transactions in India, that they are 
easily persuaded to remand them ... to obscurity’ [i]. Nevertheless, 
many of these words made their way into the English language. 



and not only into the language of poets but into the common 
speech of everyday life. 

The first words to be absorbed into the EngUsh language were 
mainly the names of things, like calico - after the port of Calicut, 
from which much of India’s cotton cloth was exported to Europe 
in the seventeenth century - and cummerbund, a waist-sash. 
Although there were many more (the Oxford English Dictionary 
lists over three hundred words which entered the language from 
India in the seventeenth century), most have disappeared from 
norma! speech. Such words as mogul, bimgalow, pundit, shampoo, 
and cot have, however, become completely naturalized. 

The eighteenth century saw a distinct increase in the number of 
words relating to political and military affairs - a situation brought 
about by the changing nature of the role played by the British in 
India during the collapse of the Mughal power. Of the words wliich 
have survived into modern sp.'cch, perhaps the most historically 
pertinent is loot (from the 1 lindi hit, plunder). Another word which 
indicated the widening of European horizons was jungle’. Veranda, 
bangle and buggy were also imported during the eighteenth century, 
as was chee-chce - a disparaging term applied to half-castes. The 
honour of first using it in literature apparently belongs to the 
journalist Hicky. It appeared in his Bengal Gazette in March 1781: 

Pretty httlc Looking-Glasses, 

Good and cheap for Chee-chee Misses. 

Not surprisingly, the nineteenth century brought a large number 
of Indian words into the English language, particularly words which 
reflected the growing interest in Indian philosophy and literature. 
In ordinary English speech, however, such words as thug - which 
originally meant a particular class of professional robber and mur- 
derer, the extent of whose operations was only discovered by the 
British in the first decades of the nineteenth century - had already 
taken on the colloquial meaning of ‘ruffian’ or ‘cut-throat’ as early as 
1839. The use of the word ‘damn’ in the expression ‘don’t care (or 
give) a damn’ seems to have originated' in the word* dan, a copper 
coin of very small value. 

The first world war added new words;; and new meanings for old 



ones. This is particularly apparent in army slang. One new word 
was ‘blighty\ used to mean ‘home’ (i.e. Britain) by troops serving 
abroad. Others were ‘cushy’ - meaning easy, or comfortable - and 
‘char’, referring to tea. The war gave wider currency to a number 
of words, including buckshee, puggled (from the Hindi pagal, mad 
or crazy), and wallah. 

Although the second world war brought very few new words, it 
did distribute them widely among the large numbers of British and 
American troops who passed through India or were stationed there. 
Among todays’ survivals are ‘phut’ (‘it went phut’, meaning it 
stopped working or collapsed) which came from the Hindi phatna, 
to burst, and ‘dekko’ (‘let’s have a dekko’) from the Hindi dekho^ 
the imperative of the verb dekhna^ to look. 

« « * 

The use in literature of words of Indian origin preceded actual 
contact with India and Indian life. Most of these words - even the 
word ‘India’ itself - came via Greek, Latin or French, and were 
mainly confined to the names of things, such as pepper, beryl, and 
camphor. The works of English travellers, which began to appear 
in the seventeenth century, supplied not only colourful and exotic 
backgrovmds and tales, but also some of the language needed to 
reinforce the exoticism. Strange- ^ounding place names obviously 
attracted the poet, John Milton : 

Of Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Can, 

And Samarkand by Oxus, Temir’s throne. 

To Paquin of Sinaean kings, and thence. 

To Agra and Labor of Great Mogul. 

Paradise Lost, xi, 388 

The eighteenth century, with its growing awareness of India and 
the consequences of establishing British rule in Bengal, brought a 
number of words into the vocabulary of English men of letters. 
Some were used precisely, and for a precise purpose, as when 
Edmund Burke used them in his speeches to the House of Commons; 
though he complained about them at the same time, he could not 



avoid using them. Perhaps the most popular Indian word in 
cightccnth-ccntury literature was ‘nabob’ (from nawab, a Muslim 
prince), which was applied to returning servants of the East India 
Company as a term of abuse. Even such words as ‘nabobess* and 
‘nabobry’ were invented. Laurence Sterne produced a feminine 
version of Brahmin (‘Bramine’) which he applied to EUza Draper, 
the wife of a Company servant. Robert Bums seems to have made 
the first literary use of the word ‘toddy’ - a mixture of whisky or 
some other spirit with sugar and hot water - corrupted from the 
Hindi tari, the fermented sap of the palm tree: 

The lads an’ lasses, blythely bent. 

To mind baith soul an’ body. 

Sit round the table, well content. 

An’ steer about the toddy. 

Holy Fair (1785) 

The nineteenth century produced a special category of English 
literature which is best described as ‘Anglo-Indian’ and has been 
discussed elsewhere (sec pages 41 ff. and 171 ff.). Naturally, writers 
of this school, who include Edwin Arnold and Rudyard Kipling, 
utilized a large number of Indian words in their works. Others, 
such as Jane Austen, Shelley, Carlyle, Dickens, and Robert Louis 
Stevenson, occasionally used Indian words. Sir Walter Scott went 
further and wrote a novel about India, The Surgeon^s Daughter, 
which displays an accurate knowledge of the meaning of Indian 
words, acquired apparently from a neighbour. Colonel Ferguson of 
Himtly Bum. Scott describes him in the novel - under the name 
of Colonel Mackerris - as ‘one of the best fellows who ever trod a 
Highland moor or dived into an Indian jungle’. 

Among other writers, Southey {The Curse of Kehama), Byron 
{The Giaour), and Thackeray used Indian words, Southey in par- 
ticular without much appreciation of their real meaning. Thackeray, 
however, was born in India and had a wide vocabulary of Indian 
words although he left the country when he was still a child. He 
often bent such words in order to make them and the characters 
who used them objects of fim - as when he used the word ‘cata- 
maran’ (raft) to describe Mrs. Mackenzie in The Newcowes: ‘an 


infernal tartar and catamaran*. In the same novel, miilligatawnay 
became a place name. Elsewhere, Thackeray gave characters such 
names as Mr. Chutney (yanxty Fair)^ General Sir Rice Curry, k.c.b. 
{A Shabby Genteel Story), and Colonel Goldmore {Barry Lyndon) 
from the gold nwhur, an Indian coin. 

The present century has produced, in some areas, a greater under- 
standing of India but very little desire to use Indian words for fun. 
E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India uses very few Indian words, 
probably because of the author’s inability - in spite of the uncritical 
praise lavished upon the work - to understand cither India itself or 
the world of the British in India. Edward Thompson’s unjustly 
neglected novels. An Indian Day, Night Falls on Siva^s Hill and 
A Farewell to India, reflect a changing and essentially political 
vocabulary in which swaraj (freedom) and swarajists, swadeshi (home- 
produced) and other such words represent the new world of 
Indian nationalism. 

Among other writers, the words used are mainly taken from 
Indian metaphysics. They appear in such poems as T. S. Eliot’s The 
Waste Land, in the philosophical works of Aldous Huxley, and in 
the literature produced by the popularizcrs of yogic exercises, 
Indian words which still retain their virihty in common speech are 
used without conscious knowledge of their origin. These arc 
examples of genuine cultural penetration. They represent one of 
the very few permanent legacies of the British connexion with India. 


I T should be clear from the preceding pages that the impact of 
British rule upon the complex societies of India was essentially 
disruptive. The processes of government, of law, of economic 
theories and practice, all tended to distort - and in some cases to 
break - the traditional web of human relationships. But there was 
nothii^ total about the impact. Hindu and Muslim society was not 
destroyed. The processes of change begun under British rule are sdll 
going on, though with much greater vigour because of the rapid 
increase of modernization after independence. Vast social changes 
are implicit in the modernizing process itself - as the British dis- 
covered from the Mutiny of 1857 and the rise of nationalist 

The impact of Western ideas, which the British funnelled into 
Indian society, was to produce two basic reactions - atavism and 
acceptance - and the struggle between them still continues in 
present-day India. The cow protection agitation of 1966 was similar 
in purpose to that of 1882. It would, however, be fooUsh to suggest 
that the circumstances are the same. They are not, and not only 
because there is no longer an alien government ruling India. In the 
1880S, there could well have been a turning back to the old forms 
of Indian government, to reaction rather than modernism. Today, 
however, there can be no reversion, even though the modernizing 
process could be modified. The real purpose behind rehgious revival- 
ism today remains what it was in the past, a desire to change the 
basis of pohtical Hfe. 

It was in politics that the British impact on India had its most 
profound effect, bideed, in other areas, in for example the arts and 
learning (other than scientific), the British contributed very little to 
India. They inspired cither imitation or revivalism - neither of 
which has been particularly creative. They did give to a small, 
anglicized class attitudes to life unrelated to their milieu and to 
which there has been considerable reaction since independence. 
But it was that class, created and sustained by the British, which 



reflected the positive effects of British rule. It was the middle 
classes who took to modem entrepreneurial techniques. It was they 
who demanded English education and, later, Western-style liberal 
reforms. They appeared, in the end, to triumph when India chose 
parliamentary democracy at the time of independence. It is because 
of the intense political activity of the last thirty years of British rule 
- and of political activity expressed in the vocabulary of Western 
liberalism - that, despite the tensions of independence, the represen- 
tative principle appears to be firmly established in the minds of 
millions of Indians. 

Implicit in the tenets of liberal democracy is the rule of law. 
Inefficient courts and the inappropriateness of their procedure often 
led, and still lead, to travesties of justice, but the basic principle that 
law controls the limits of government is entrenched in India. 

It may seem very Httle after 175 years of direct British rule to 
have left behind only a system of government and of law, neither 
of which - according to some critics - works very well. But they 
were not abstract systems. They were supported by an administra- 
tive framework which survived the transfer of power. Unlike the 
other European imperial powers in their Asian possessions, the 
British deliberately constructed the scaffolding of a modem state in 
which Indians themselves played an indispensable functional role. 
When the small British element was withdrawn in 1947 the 
scaffolding did not collapse, even under the pressures of partition. 

The period that has elapsed since independence is not long enough 
to suggest any firm conclusions about the effect of the British impact 
on India. There have been great superficial changes in India since 
independence. Modem industry, for example, has been greatly 
expanded. Cities look different - more modem and more progres- 
sive. Yet the countryside and the life of the peasant seem very little 
different from what they were in 1947. In this sector, the changes 
have been more subde, less obvious to the eye. In India today, 
there is, however, a sometimes elusive sense of continuity, as if 
modem India began not in 1947 but some time during the British 
connexion. It is here, indeed, that the legacies of British rule take 
on meaning. In spite of all the criticisms of India today, it represents 
a basically stable political system, in direct contrast with the situation 
in other former colonial possessions. 



Materials of History 

List of Illustrations 

1 View of Bombay Green 1767. From James Forbes Oriental Memoirs 
(London 1834). 

2 Headgear. From Colesworthy Grant Rural Life in Bengal (London 

3 ‘The Travelling MP*. Illustration by George Darby from G. R. 
Abcrigh-Mackay Twenty-one Days in India, or The Tour of Sir Ali 
Baba K.C.B. (8th edn. London 1910). 

4 Illustration to ‘Jink’s Leave’ in Lays of Ind by ‘Aliph Chccm’[ Walter 
Ycldham]. London 1901. 

5 ‘Our Burra Khana’ from Captain George F. Atkinson Curry and Rice 
{on Forty Plates). London 1859. 

6 Front and ground plan of factory assistant’s bungalcnv in Bengal and 
interior of cook room. From W. M. Reid The Culture and AJuur' 
facUire of (ndigo (Calcutta 1887). 

7 Indian servants. From EHA [£. II. Aitken] Behind the Bungalow (^fli 
edn. London 190 r). 

8 Interior of the cave temple at Elephanta, 1774. From Forbes’ Oriental 

9 George Nathaniel Curzon, Marquess Curzon of Kedleston. By J. 
Cooke after J. S. Sargent. National Portrait Gallery, London. 

10 Ruins of Old Delhi. From Captain Robert Elliot RN Views in the 
East (London 1833). 

11 Old Fort William, Calcutta. Aquatint by Thomas Daniell, 1786. 
Royal Asiatic Society, London. 

12 South-east view of New Government House, Calcutta. Water colour 
by James Moffat c.1804. India Office Library, London. 

13 Charles Cornwallis, first Marquess Cornwallis. Water colour by 
John Smart, 1792. National Portrait Gallery, London. 

14 Sir Thomas Miinro, by M. A. Shoe. National Portrait Gallery, London. 

15 Sepoys of the Madras Establishment. From Charles Gold Oriental 
Drawings {London 1806). 

16 Sepoy of Tipu Sultan’s irregular infantry. From Gold’s Oriental 

17 British Resident’s camp. From T. D. Broughton Letter: written in a 
Mahratta Camp 1809 (London 1813). 



1 8 ‘Our joint magistrate’. From Atkinson’s Curry and Rice. 

19 T. B. Macaulay, by J. Partridge, 1 840. National Portrait Gallery, London. 

20 James Andrew Broun Ramsay, Marquess of Dalhousie, by J. Watson- 
Gordon, 1847. National Portrait Gallery, London. 

2 1 The Imperial Durbar at Delhi, 1877. From the Illustrated London News, 
10 February 1877. 

22 Viceregal Lodge (now President’s House), New Dellii, built 1930. 
Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Information Service of India, London. 

23 Starting the dak garry. From Captain Oliver J. Jones RN Recollec- 
tions of a Winter Campaign in India in 1857-58 (London 1859). 

24 Palanquin and sedan cliair in a Calcutta street. Detail from an 
aquatint by Thomas Daniell, 1788. Royal Asiatic Society, London. 

25 A ‘putelee*, properly patela, a large flat-bottomed boat used on the 
river Ganges. From Grant’s Rural Life. 

26 Drawing water. An Indian painting, probably from Lucknow, c. 1 83 0. 
India Office Library, London. 

27 Ploughman witli plough and harrow. From Grant’s Rural Life. 

28 The cake house of an indigo plantation in Lower Bengal. From Reid’s 

29 jamsetji Tata. Information Service of India, London. 

30 An Indian railway workshop. Information Service of India, London. 

3 1 The Victoria Terminus, Bombay, c.1890. India Office Library, London. 

32 A rural school. Indian painting, probably from Benares, c.1818. 
India Office Library, London. 

3 3 Ram Mohun Roy. India Office Library, London. 

3 4 Mission school near Cossipore in Bengal. From Grant’s Rural Life. 

35 La Martinierc College, Lucknow. Information Service of India, London. 

36 Warren Hastings, by Tilly Kettle. National Portrait Gallery, London. 

37 Sir William Jones. Engraving by J. Cochran after a painting by Sir 
Joshua Reynolds. 

38 Park Street, Calcutta. Aquatint by Thomas Daniell, 1788. Royal 
Asiatic Society, London. 

39 European officers being entertained at a nautch in an Indian house. 
Indian painting, probably from Delhi, c.1800. India Office Library, 

40 Colonel Mordaunt’s cock match at Lucknow, 1786. Engraving by 
Richard Earlom from a painting by John Zoffany. India Office Library, 



41 Maker of fireworb. Indian painting OffiuIJhrary,LanJan. 

42 The Red Fort, Delhi. Miniature painting on ivory, Delhi, c. 1865. 
Author s collection. 

43 Surat Ragini: Girl with Peacocks. Deccani painting, early i8th 
century. India Office Library^ London. 

44 ‘Mohini’ by Ravi Varma, c.1885. 

45 Henry Derozio. From J. J. A. Campos History of the Portuguese in 
Bengal (Calcutta 1919). 

46 Rabindranath Tagore. Information Service of India^ LondoH. 

47 Effigy of one of the minions of Ravana. Press Information Bureau, New 

48 Muhurram procession. Mica painting, Benares, c.1870. India Office 
Library, London. 

49 William Carey and his pandit, at the College, Calcutta. Engraving by 
Worthington from a painting by Robert Home. 

50 The church at Dhurumtola, Calcutta. Aquatint by Thomas Daniell, 
1788. Royal Asiatic Society , London. 

5 1 ‘Our missionary*. From Atkinson’s Curry and Rice. 

52 William Wilberforce, by Thomas' Lawrence, 1828. National Portrait 
Gallery, London. 

53 Suttee. From William Henry Portlock Voyages and Travels to all the 
Various Parts of the World (London 1794). 

54 Thugs attacking their victim. From a drawing in Fanny Eden’s 
journal, 1837. India Office Library , London. 

55 Mutineers attacking British infantry at Cawnpore, 1857. From 
Charles Ball The History of the Indian Mutiny, vol. i. (London n.d.). 

56 ‘The post coming in’. From Grant’s Rural Life. 

57 Cattle, after an original Indian painting. From J, L. Kipling Beast and 
Man in India (London 1891). 

58 M. A. Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi, May 1944. Press Information 
Bureau, New Delhi. 

59 Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sardar Patel, 1947. Press 
Information Bureau, New Delhi. 

60 Leaflet produced by the Japanese for the Indian National Army, 
C.1944. From Hugh Toye The Springing Tiger (Cassell and Co. Ltd., 
London 1959). 


The British 



This view of Bombay in 1767 contains most of the factors in the 
equation of British life in India. The open space for military drill and 
the drive in the cool of the evening. Government House, the centre of 
social life and arbiter of fashion. The ofEce. for the work of the day, 
and the church, for worship - and reassurance. 


3 From the beginning, the British in India resented the 
interference of the British parliament. After 1858, the 
visiting member of parliament was particularly disliked. 
Kipling castigated him as ‘Paget, MP’, Abcrigh-Mackay 
as ‘The British Lion Rampant’. 


2 The British were obsessed with the dangers of leaving 
their heads unprotected against the sun. Some ex- 
amples of mid-nineteenth century headgear. The ‘ugly 
topee’ survived to the end of British rule 

farmer’s hat 


4 A ‘humorous’ view of racial relations. Colonel dc Fierie 
Phlaimc of Hazercepore chastising his gardener. 


5 The British took nearly a hundred years to discover that large meals 
accompanied by copious wine at the middle of the day were likely to 
kill them off quicker than disease. 

Though in the towns the 
British often lived in spacious 
and elegant houses, in the 
countryside they lived more 
simply. This is an example of an 
assistant’s bungalow at an indigo 
plantation in Bengal, c. 1880. 

8 An example of early British interest in Indian antiquities. The cave at 
Elcphanta near Bombay, c. 1774. 

9 Opposite: Lord Curzon, viceroy 1898-1905, who established the 
directorate-general of archaeology on a proper financial basis in 1901. 



In the early days, government sheltered behind the walls of a fort, but by 
the end of the eighteenth century, the British felt secure enough to 
erect a vast classical mansion in an open park for the governor-general. 
Cornwallis and Munro symbolize the two streams in Indian administration 
- the aristocratic and the paternal. 


17 The British conquered India with Indian soldiers. Without them, they 
could not have held it. On the eve of the Mutiny of 1857 Indian 
troops oumurnbered British by six to one. They protected the camps 
of the diplomats at native courts, as in the picture below of the 
British Resident’s camp at the court of the Maratha chief, Sindia 

l8 The casual air of the joint magistrate’, c. 1840’, surrounded with court 
officials, was not untypical of the administration of justice in British 
India during the first part4)f the nineteenth century. 


19 Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-59) sought to codify the law 
and its administration and to remove the inequalities which through- 
ignorance - and, sometimes, caprice - distorted it. 

20 Lord Dalhousic (1812-60), governor- 
general 1848-56, the last reforming 
ruler of the Company period, estab- 
lished the semi-military ‘Punjab system’ 
which has been characterized as the 
golden age of Indian administration. 

21 At the Imperial Durbar held in Delhi in 
1877, the chief herald proclaims Queen 
Victoria Empress of India. 


22 Government House, Calcutta (12) was aggressively European in style. 
By the 1930s, however, the viceregal residence in New Delhi displayed 
a kind of Eurasian architecture, symbolizing an administration 
becoming more and more a mixture of East and West. 


23 Transport is the life blood of a modern economy. While communi- 
cations were dependent upon inadequate means of transport, there was 
little chance of modernising; India’s economy. Aboue, the dak garry, 
a sort of stage coach. 


26 Irrigation. Before the construction of large-scale canal and dam 
systems, the method illustrated opposite (above), was one of those used 
for raising water. A similar method is still in use in parts of India today. 

27 The basic tools of Indian husbandry, the plough and harrow (opposite, 
below) remained unchanged until the present century. 

28 The manufacture of indigo. The cake house, where indigo cakes were 
dried after being cut from slabs. Until the end of the nineteenth 
century, indigo was one of the most profitable of plantation crops. 
Most indigo plantations were European-owned. 


31 The Victoria Railway Terminus, Bombay. An example of the 
Eurasian tendency in British architecture in India - though still more 
European than Asian, 


33 Ram Mohiin Roy (1772-1833), educational reformer, firm believer in 
English education, and the founder of the Brahmo Samaj. 


34 Missionary education. Next to a scmi-Gothic church stands a school 
established with funds raised by the educational missionary, Mrs. 
Wilson, in 1843, at a town in Lower Bengal. 

35 Li Mirtinicre College, Lucknow. Formerly the residence of a French 
mercenary, and then (from 1840) a school. 


36 Warren Hastings (1732 
-1818), governor- 
general in Bengal 1774 
-85. Painted in India 
by Tilly Kettle. 

37 Sir Williamjones (1746 
-94), judge of the 
Supreme Court, 
Calcutta, 1783-94. 

38 Warren Hastings, in his search for knowledge of the traditional systems 
of Indian law, helped t(^ establish Oriental scholarship. Jones translated 
not only law books but works of literature which were to influence the 
romantic movement in Europe profoundly. 

In 1784 Jones, with the active encouragement of Hastings, founded 
the Asiatic Society of Bengal in a house at the bottom of Park Street, 
Calcutta, illustrated below in a contemporary aquatint. 


39 British officers in India in the eighteenth century and later welcomed 
the luxuries of Indian upper-class life. They enjoyed the pleasures of 
the harem. Some wrote poetry in Persian, the court language; others 
were happy to witness a nautch, or dance, when they visited their 
Indian friends. 

40 Indian rulers also enjoyed European sports. A cock match :|t Lucknow 
given by Colonel Mordaunt in 1786 and attended by the ruler, the 
Nawab of Oudh. From a painting by John Zoffany. 


41 An early example of Indian painting for the British, the equivalent of 
the picture postcard, c. 1818. 

i' 358 

42 Souvenir painting for the British survived into the second lialf of the 
nineteenth century. Miniature paintings on ivory, such as the one 
illustrated here (enlarged to three-and-a-half times the original size) 
of the Red Fort at Delhi from across the river Jumna, were often 
copied from photographs. 


Bengal, which received the full impact of British rule earlier than the rest 
of India, produced a number of writers who represent in varying degree 
a synthesis of East and West, 

Derozio, who wrote exclusively in English, was almost entirely an 
English poet, though he had a burning sense of Bengali nationalism. 

Tagore, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, 
wrote the majority of his works in the Bengali language. 


47 Opposite: An effigy of one of the minions of Ravana, the demon king, 
burnt by Hindus at the festival of Dussehra to symbolize the destruc- 
tion of evil. 

48 Above: The Muslim festival of Muhurram, in which models of the 
tombs of the martyrs Hasan and Husain are carried in procession. A 
painting on mica from Benares, c. 1870. 


49 The Baptist missionary, William Carey (1761-1834) with his Hindu 
teacher. Carey, from a shoemaker, became professor of Indian 
languages at Fort William College (1801) and was responsible for 
grammars, dictionaries and texts in many Indian languages. 


50 The British emphasized the foreignness of their religion by constructing 
their temples in an architecture unknown to India. This elegant 
classical church was erected in Calcutta in the late eighteenth century. 

The missionary, in this 
ease a German Lutheran, 
with some of his flock. 

Under the influence of Wilberforce, Charles Grant became the spokesman 
for the idea that the empire in India could be given a Christian purpose. 
The propaganda of these two men was responsible for the opening up of 
India to missionary activity by the Charter Act of 1813. 

53 The burning of a Hindu widow on the pyre of her.hiisband (suttee) was 
prohibited by the British in 1829. 


54 The first impulse of nationalism amongst Indians was expressed in 
terms of contempt for such practices as suttee, female infanticide, and 
the activities of the Thugs, robbers who murdered travellers by 
strangulation (illustrated below) allegedly as sacrifices to the goddess 


55 The Indian Mutiny of 1 857 has been claimed by some Indian historians 
as a national war of liberation*. It was, in fact, a conservative reaction 
to the modernizing tendencies of British rule. In this contemporary 
illustration, mutinous sepoys attack British infantry at Cawnporc in 



56 The growth of genuine political nationalism in India owed much to the 
development in the second half of the nineteenth century of cheap 
postal services, which made it possible for the English-speaking 
minority to exchange ideas. 

Before the expansion of the railway system, the mails were carried by 
runners and, later, by such conveyances as that illustrated below. 


57 In tlic organization of nationalism, the cow played a not insignificant 
role. In an endeavour to arouse the masses against the beef-eating 
British, Swami Dayananda established the Cow Protection Society in 

58 Opposite {above): M. A. Jinnah (1876-1948), the Muslim leader, with 
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). 

59 Opposite (below): Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, and Sardar Patel at a meeting 
of the All-India Congress Committee, 1947. 


6o One nationalist leader, Siibhas Chandra Bose (1897-1945) attempted 
to overthrow British rule by force. A Japanese leaflet issued on behalf 
of Bose’s Indian National Army during the second world war. 

374 ; 

Notes on Sources 

Introduction ( paj^e i) 

1 Rijazu-s-Salatin. 1788 

2 Sir T. Muiiro to Board of Revenue, Madras, 12 August 1801 

3 Sir William Slecman, Joiiniey through the Kingdom ofOude in i84g-^o. London 
1858. Vol. I 


i: The British in India {pages 32-46) 

I Maria Graham, of a Residence in India i8og-u. London 1813 (2nd 

edn). p. 139 

2/3 AnonfJ. W. Kaye], Peregrine Pnltuneyt or Life in India. London 1844. Vol. i, 
p. 133, and vol. 2, p. 84 

4 Mrs. Lushiiigton, Narrative of a Journey from Calcutta to Europe. London 1827. 
p. 64 

5 Herbert Edwardes, A Year on the Punjab Frontier, in 1848-49. London 1851. 
Vol. I, p. 55 

6 Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1843. pp. 246-47 

7 John Malcohii, The Political History of India from 1784 to 1823. London 1826. 
Vol. I, p. I 

8 J. D. Cunningham, History of the Sikhs. London 1849. p. 2 

9 James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs. London 1813. Vol. i, p. vi 

10 Punjabec [William ndafield Arnold], Oakfichl, or I’ellowship in the East. 
London 1853. 

2: The Nature of British Rule {pages 47-61) 


1 The Fifth Report from the Select Committee on the Affairs of the East India Company. 
Ordered by the House of Commons to be Printed, 28 July 1812. p. iS 

2 Cornwallis to Court of Directors, 18 April 1789 

3 Minute by Munro ‘On the State of the Country*, 31 December 1824 

4 Malcolm’s Political History etc. Vol. 2, p. 142 

5 Charles Grant, Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects 
of Great Britain, particularly with respect to Morals and on the Means of Improving 
it, written chiefly in the Year 1792. Privately printed 1797. P- 220 

6 Speech of William Wilberforce in the House of Commons, 22 June 1813 

7 Substance of the Speeches of IVilliani IVilberforce Estj on the Clause in the East 
India Bill for Promoting the Religious Instruction and Moral Improvement oj the 
Natives of the British Dominions in India, on the 22ud June and the 1st & t2th 
of July 1813. London T813. p. 92 

M . 375 


8 T. B. Macaulay, speech in the Charter debate, House of Commons, lo July 


9/ 1 1 James Mill, History of British India. London 1820. Vol. 2, p. 195, vol. 5, p. 543, 
and vol. 5, p. 538 

12 Bentliam, Works (ed. J. Bowring). London 1843. Vol. 2, p. 522 

13 Public Despatch to India, 10 December 1834 

T4/15 India Legislative Consultations. 27 July 1835 No. 3, and 8 May 1837 No. i 

1 Cited in T. E. Colcbrook, Life of the Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone. 1884. 
Vol. 2, p. 87 

2 Ninth Report of the Select Committee on the Affairs of India, 1783 

3 Hastings to Lord Mansfield, 25 August 1774 

4 Mill’s History etc. Vol. 5, p. 513 

5 T. B. Macualay, speech in the Charter debate, House of Commons, 10 July 

6 George Campbell, Modern India: A Sketch of the System of Ciuil Government. 
London 1852. p. 464 

7/8 Letter from the Indian Law Commissioners, 2 May 1837 

9 J. Fitzjamcs Stephen, History of the Criminal Law of England. London 1883. 
Vol. 3, p. 302 

10 Clive to the Court of Directors, 29 September 1765 

11 Cornwallis, Minute of 18 September 1789 

12 Munro to Mountstuart Elphinstone, 12 May 1818 

13 Sir Edward Ryan. Parliamentary Papers 18J2-33. XXXI. p. 240 

3; Indian India; Aulas ol Impact {pages 82-i^f) 

Eionomic Life 

1/2 J. Capper, 'Hie Three Presidencies of India. London 1H53. p. 332, and pp. 

3 Colonel Walter Campbell, My Indian Journal. Edinburgh 1864. p. 424 

4 Report to the Select Coiiiinittee of the House of Commons on Affairs of 
the East India Company, 1831-32 (734). (Jencral Appendix, p. 18 

5 Mmutes of Evidence II, Select Committee, House of Commons, 1831-32. 
p. 151 

6 Report of the Select C.'omniittee, House of Commons, 1840. Questions 
1824 and 1825 

7 W. Milburn, Oriental Commerce, or The East India Trader's Complete Giiid. . 
London 1813. Vol. i, p. 124 

8 Max Weber The Religion of India. Glencoe, Illinois 1958. p. 112 
Social Polity 

1 Burke, Works and Correspondence. London 1852. Vol. 6, p. 3 84 

2 Despatch fioni the Court of Directors, 7 September 1808 



3 Charles Grant’s Observations etc. p. 71 

4 Muiiro to Canning, 30 June 1821. Cited in G. R. Gleig, The Life of Sir Thomas 
Munro. London 1830. Vol. 2, p. 57 

5 Cited in L. S. S. O’Malley, History of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa under British 
Rule, London 1925. p. 359 

6 Bengal Records. Judicial Consultations. Nos. 48 and 49. 24 October 1812 

7 John Adam to Charles Metcalfe, 13 November 1812 

8 Sleeman’s Journey through Oude etc. Vol. 2, pp. 38-39, and 59-60 

9 J. Pegg, India's Cries to British Humanity. London 1830. p. 14 

10 Parliamentary Papers 1824: XXIII. pp. 44-45 

11 Parliamentary Papers 182$. XXIV. pp. 151-54 

12 Metcalfe, Minute of 14 November 1829 

13 J. de Thevenot, Voyages cn Europe, Asie et Afrique. English transl. 1686. Part 3, 

p. 41 

14 India Office. Home Proceedings (Legislative) 1866, r. 436. Vol. 53, f. 260 

15 T. B. Macaulay, ‘Essay on Warren Hastings*. In the Edinburgh Reviciv, 
October 1841 

16 Charles Metcalfe to his sister, Georgiana, 24 June 1 820. Cited in E. Thompson, 
The Life of Charles, Lord Metcalfe. London 1937. p. 124 

17 Charles Trevelyan On the Education of the People of India. London .1838. p. 27 

18 Report to the Select Committee of the House of Lords 1852 (i9[88J). 
Question 1191 


1 Report of the State of Education in Bengal 1835. Section 7. p. 49. From 
Adam, William Adam's Reports on Vernacular Education in Bengal and Bihar 
submitted to Government i8j^, 1836 and 1838 {eA.J. Long). Calcutta 1868 

2 Selections from Educational Records. Bureau of Education, India. 1920. Part i, 
p. 10 

3 Adam’s Reports etc. p. 308 

4 Minute unjudicial Administration, 2 October 1815 

5 Calcutta Journal, ii March 1822 

6 Ram Mohun Roy, English Works {ed. J. C. C. Ghose). Calcutta 1885. pp. 


7 Selections from Educational Records etc., part i, p. 95 

8 Cited in C. F. Andrews and A. Mukerji, Rise and Growth of Congress in India. 
Bombay 1938. p. 70 

9 Charles Trevelyan’s Education of the People of India etc. p. 48 

10 T. B. Macaulay, speech in the Charter debate. House of Commons, 10 July 


11 Charles Trevelyan’s Education of the People of India etc., pp. i 94“95 

12 Minute of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal on 'Education in India’. 
Parliamentary Papers i860. HC 52(35), para. 44 

13 Parliamentary Papers 1847-48. HC 48(20) 



14 Calcutta Review, vol. 15. Cited in P. N. Bose, Hindu Civilisation under British 
Rule, Calcutta 1896. Vol. 3, pp. 180-81 

15 Christian Education for India in the Mother Tongue, India Office Tract 633. 
p. 17 

16 Education Despatch to India, 19 July 1854, para. 4. Selections from Educational 
Records etc., part 2 p. 365 

Culttiral and Religious Life 

1 Ram Mohun Roy, English Works etc., vol. i, pp. 135, 137 

2 Cited in J. N. Farquhar, Modern Religious Movements' in India, New York 
1919. p. 35 


1 Cited in R. C. Majiinidar Glimpses of Bengal in the Nineteenth Century, 
Calcutta i960, p. 39 

2 India Gazette, 12 February 1830 

3 Ram Mohun Roy, letter to the editor, Bengal Hurkuru, 23 May 1823 

4 Speech by Dr. Bhau Dajce, 9 November 1853. Cited in B. B. Majumdar, 
Indian Political Associations and Reform of the Legislature, iSiS-igij. Calcutta 
1965. p. 57 


1: Thf British in India (pages 163-17^^) 

1 C. T. Garratt (cd.) The Legacy of India. Oxford 1937. p. 403 

2 Mrs. Annette Beveridge, letter to The Englishman (Calcutta), 6 March 1883 

3 Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1905. p. 104 

4 Cnrzon. Speech to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta, 1 February 1899 

5 C^corge R. Aberigh-Mackay, Twenty-One Days in India, London 1910 
(8th edn). p. 15 

6 Anon [Chambers], ‘The Poet’s Mistake’. The Chutney Lyrics, Madras 1871 

7 W. T. Webb, ‘The Song of Death’. Indian Lyrics. Calcutta 1884 

8 Anon. ‘Back East’. In the Madras Mail, October 1933 

9 J. F. Watson and J. W. Kaye (cd.). The People of India. London 1H68-75. 

10 Val Prinsep, Imperial India: An Artist's Journals. London 1879. p. 21 

2; The Nature of British Rule (pages 176-213) 


1 Cited in G. O. Trevelyan, LiJ'e and Letters of Lord Macaulay. London 1908. 
p. 302 

2 John Lawrence to the Government of India, 3 July 1858 

3 Memorandum of the Governor-General, 20 January 1868. Parliamentary 
Papers 1867-68, XLIX. p. 228 



4 Bartle Frcre, Minute of i6 March i860. Home Department, Public 
Proceedings, 31 January 1861. No. 76 

5 Hansard, clxiii, 6 June 1861, col. 641 

6 Minute by the Hon. J. Fitzjanies Stephen, ‘On the Administration of British 
Justice in India’. Cited in Leslie Stephen, The Life of Sir James Fitzjames 
Stephen. London 1895. p. 308 

7/10 Stephen’s Minute on the Administration of British Justice, etc. Selections 
from the Records of the Government of India, Ixxxix. Calcutta 1872. pp. 30, 
30, 94, and 106-7 

11 Cited in W. W. Hunter, Life of the Earl of Mayo. London 1875. Vol. 2, pp. 

12 John Strachey, India. London 1888. pp. 359-60 

13 Lytton to Lord Salisbury, ii May 1877. Cited in Lady Betty Balfour, The 
History of Lord Lytton s Indian Administration. London 1 899. p. 109 

14 Government of India to Secretary of State, 2 May 1878 

15 W. E. Gladstone, ‘Aggression on Egypt and Freedom in the East*. In Nine- 
teenth Century, 1877 

16 Mayo to Mortimer Durand, 29 April 1870. Cited in S. Gopal, British Policy 
in India 1838-igos. Cambridge 1965. p. 93 

17 Ripon to Gladstone, 24 March 1881 

18 Cited in Hunter’s Mayo (1875), vol. 2, p. 169 

19 J. Fitzjames Stephen ‘Foundations of the Government of India*. In Nineteenth 
Century, October 1883. p. 566 

20 Cited in H. M. Durand, Life of Sir A. C. Lyall. London 1913. p. 477 

21 DufFerin to Secretary of State, 17 August 1888. Cross Collection, India Oflfice 

22 Curzon. Cited in Earl of Ronaldshay, Life of Lord Curzon. London 1928. 
Vol. 2, p. 64 

23/25 Cited in M. Edwardcs, Hi{ih Noon of Empire: India under Curzon. London 
1965. pp. 251, 252, and 252-53 

26 Surendranath Banerjea, A Nation in the Making. London 1925. p. 173 

27/31 Cited in Edwardes’s High Noon of Empire etc., pp. 130. 13 1, 133, 134, and 137 

32 Morley to Mintcj, 6 June 1906. Cited inj. Morley, Recollections. London 1917* 
Vol. 2, p. 172 

33 Cited in Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms. 1918. s. 6 

34/36 Cited in M. Edwardes, The Last Years of British India. London 1963. pp. 
43-44, 52, and 217 


1 Macaulay, Minute of 14 December 1835 

2 Report of Law Commission, 1856. Parliamentary Papers 1836. XXV. p. 94 

3 Fitzjames Stephen’s Criminal Law etc., vol. 3, pp. 302-3 

4 Parliamentary Papers 1836. XXV. p. 259 

5 Parliamentary Papers 1839 {2). XXIII. pp. 195-96 



6 Htzjames Stephen’s Criminal Law etc., voL 3, p. 344 

7 India Office Revenue Despatch to India, 31 December 1858. No. 2, para, i 

8 India Office Collections to Revenue Despatch, 9 July 1862. No. 14, para. 7 
9/ioFamine Commission Report 1881. Appendix i, para. 9, p. 189, and para. 13, 

pp. 189-90 

II Cited in J. D. Mayne A Treatise on Hindu Law and Usage, London 1938. p. 301 

3; Indian India: Areas of Impact {pages ziC-zgy) 

Economic Life 

T Cited in Hunter’s Mayo (1875), vol. 2, p. 322 
2 Indian Planning Commission Report 1901. p. 113 

3/4 Cited in Hunter’s Mayo (1875), vol. 2, p. 323 • 

5 Sir Edward Blunt (od.). Social Service in India. London 1939. pp. 134-37 

6 Moral and Material Progress Report 1902-3. p. 173 

Social Policy 

1 Cited m Edwardes’s High Noon of Empire etc., pp. 89-90 

2 Curzon. Seventh Budget Speech. 29 March 1905 

3 Sliiva Rao The Industrial Worker in India. London 1939. p. 210 

4 Report of the Royal Commission on Labour in India, 1931. p. 317 

5/6 Observations by Miss Nightingale on the Evidence contained in Stational Returns 
sent to her by the Royal Commission on the Sanitary State of the Army in India. 
London 1863 


1 Royal proclamation issued i November 1858 

2 Sir George Campbell Memoirs of My Indian Career. London 1893. Vol. 2, 
p. 308 

3 Cited in Sir W. W. Hunter Lord Mayo. London 1891. pp. 179-80 

4 s Campbell’s Memoirs etc., vol. 2, pp. 312-3, and 314 

6 Transactions of the Bengal Social Science Association, 1868. p. 61 

7 Moral and Progress Report 1881-82. p. 145 

5 Papers relating to Technical Education in India, 1886-1904. Calcutta 1906. 
p. 36 

0' 10 (and all intervening extracts) Cited in Sir T. Raleigh (ed.), Lord Curzon in 
India: being a Selection from his Speeches . . . i8g8-igo3. London 1906. pp. 300 
n 12 Selections from Despatches to India. P.W.D. 20 December 1883. No. 73, 
paras. 23, 12, and 16 

13 Quinquennial Review 1902-3, para. 590 

14 Cited in Edwardes’s High Noon of Empire etc., p. 206 
IS, 16 Adam’s Reports etc., pp. 13 1 and 132 

17 Reginald Heber, Narrative of a Journey to the Upper Provinces of India. London 
1828 (2nd edn.). Vol. i, pp. 55-56 

18 Drinkwater Bethune, address at the opening of the Bethune School, 7 May 




19 Indian Sututory Commission 1929. Interim Report, p. 347 

Cultural and Religious Life 

1 Dehendranath Tagore, Autobiography, p. 152 

2 Keshub Chunder Sens Lectures in India, p. 485 

3 Keshub Chunder Sen ‘Laws of Life*. In the World and New Dispensation, 
27 July 1910 

4/5 Friedrich Max-Miiller, Ramakrishna. His Life and Sayings, pp. 153, 177, and 


6 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol. 3, p. 460 

7 M. K. Gandhi, Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. 
pp. 615-6 

8 Muhammad Iqbal, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, p. 8 

1 Macaulay, Minute on Education, 1835 

2 Dr. Griswold in Indian Evangelical Review, January 1892. Cited in J. N. 
Farquhar*s Modern Religious Movements etc., pp. 111-3 

3 Sadharani, 25 September 1875 

4/5 hanerjea’s Nation in the Making etc., pp. 33 and 41 

6 Speeches and Writings of the Hon. Surendranath Banerjea. pp. 230-3 1 

7 Cited in B. B. Mujumdar’s Indian Political Associations etc., p. 155 
8/9 Cited in Gopal’s British Policy in India etc., pp. 150 and 153 

lo/iiCited in W. Wedderburn, Allan Octavian Hume. London 1913. pp. 77 and 

12 Cited in B. B. Mujumdar*s Indian Political Associations etc., p. 228 

13 Allygurh Institute Gazette, 23 November 1886 

14 The Speeches of Copal Krishna Gokhale. Madras 1920. p. 183 

15 Subhas Chandra Bose The Indian Struggle 1920-34. Calcutta 1934. pp. 34<^47 

1 6 Cited in I ndra Pradesh A Review of the History and Work of the Hindu Mahasabha, 
Delhi 1952. pp. 43-44 

17 Muhammad Ali Jinnah Some Recent Speeches and Writings. Lahore 1943. 
Vol. I, p. 180 

18 Cited in H. Kraemcr, ‘Islam in India Today*. In Moslem World, April 1931, 
p. 170 


i: Indian Iniluences on Western Life and Culture 

1 Arthur Schopenhauer, Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (3rd cdn.), vol. 2, p. 425 

2 Bhagavad Gita, part 2.19 

3 Macaulay, Minute on Education, 1835 

2: Indian Words in English 
I Edmund Burke Works etc., vol. 4, p. 321 


A Selection of Books for Further Reading 


BBARCE, G. D. British Attitudes towards India 1784-1858. London 1961 
BROWN, H. The Sahibs. London 1948 

BUCKLAND, c. T. Sketches of Social Life in India. London 1884 
CAMERON, R. Shadows from India. London 1958. [Architecture] 

CHATTERjEE, A. c. British Contributions to Indian Studies. London 1943 
GUMMING, SIR J. (cd.) Revealing India's Past. London 1939 
OGDEN, E. A. A sketch of Anglo-Indian Literature. London 1908 
SINGH, BHOPAL A Survey of Anglo-Indian Literature. London 1934 
SPEAR, T. G. p. The Nabobs. Oxford 1963 

ASPiNAii, A. Cornwallis in Bengal. Manchester 1931 

BEAGLEHOLE, T. H. Thomos Mutiro and the Development of Administrative Policy in 
Madras 1792-18 18. Cambridge 1966 

BENNETT, G. The Concept of Empire from Burke to Attlee, 1774-1947, London 1953 
ciiESNEY, SIR G. T. Indian Polity: A View of the System of Administration in India. 
London 1868 

CURTIS, L. Dyarchy. London 1920 

DHARKAR, c. D. (cd,) Lord Macaulay's Dgislative Minutes. London 1946 
EMBREE, A. Charles Grant and British Rule in India. London 1962 
FURBER, u.John Company at Work. Cambridge 1948 
GOPAL, s. The Permanent Settlement in Bengal and its Results. London 1949 
GWYER, M., AND APPADORAi, A. Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution 
1921-1947. London 1957 

ILBERT, SIR c. The Government of India. Oxfoid 1922 
METCALF, T. E. 'The Aftermath of Revolt: India 18^7-1870. Princeton 1964 
MISRA, B. B. The Central Administration of the East India Company 1773-1834. 
Manchester 1959 

MONKTON-JONES, M. E. Warren Hastings in Bengal. Oxford 1918 
MOORE, R. j. Liberalism and Indian Politico 1872-1922. London 1966 
MOORE, R. J. 5 i> Charles Wood's Indian Policy 18^3-1866. Manchester 1966 
STOKES, E. The Utilitarians and India. Oxford 1959 
STOKES, E. The Political Ideas of English Imperialism. Oxford i960 


ABDUR RAHIM The l^inciples ofMuhammedan Jurisprudence. London 1911 
BADEN POWELL, B. H. Land Systems of British India. London 1892 
GUPTE, s. V. Hindu Law in British India. Calcutta 1947 



MAYNE, j. D. A Treatise on Hindu Law and Usage. London 1914 
RANKIN, SIR G. Background to Indian Law. Cambridge 1946 
STOKES, SIR w. The Anglo-Indian Codes. Oxford 1887 


ANSTEY, V. The Economic Development of India. London 1949 
BUCHANAN, D. H. Development of Capitalist Enterprise in India. New York 1934 
DUTT, R. c. The Economic History of India in the Victorian Age. London 1906 and 
later editions 

GADGiL, D. R. The Industrial Evolution of Ittdia in Recent Times. Bombay 1942 

HOWARD, A., AND G. L. c. Development of Indian Agriculture. London 1929 

KNOWLES, L. C. A. Ecoftomtc Development of the British Overseas Empire. London 1924 

PiLLAi, P. p. Economic Conditions in India. London 1925 

SARKAR, j. Economics of British India. Calcutta 1917 

STRICKLAND, c. F. An Introduction to Co-operation in India. London 1938 

TRIPATHI, A. Trade and Finance in the Bengal Presidency Bombay 1956 


BALLHATCHET, K. A. Social PoUcy and Social Change in Western India. Oxford 1959 
CRAWFORD, D. G. A History of the Indian Medical Service i6oo-tgi3. London 1914 
DATTA, K. K. Survey of Indians Social Life and Fxonomic Conditions in the 18th Century. 
Calcutta 1961 

GEDGE, E. c., AND CHOKSi, M. Women in Modern India. Bombay 1929 
INGHAM, K. Reformers in India. London 1956 
KAPADiA, K. M. Marriage and Family in India. Bombay 1958 
PATON, w. Social Ideas in India. London 1919 


HOWELL, A. Education in India prior to 1854. Calcutta 1872 

MAYHEW, A. The Education of India. London 1926 

TREVELYAN, c. E. Ott the Education of the People of India. London 1838 

ARCHER, M., AND w. G. Indian Painting for the British 1770-1880. London 1955 
ARCHER, w. G. India and Modern Art. London 1959 
BARNS, M. The Indian Press. London 1940 

CHAND, TARA The Influence of Indian Islam on Indian Culture. Abmcdabad 1936 
DUTT, R. c. The Literature of Bengal. Calcutta 1895 
lARQUHAR, j. N. Modern Religious Movements in India. New York 1919 
KHANDALAVALA, K. Indian Sculpture and Painting. Calcutta 1939 
LATir, SAYID ABDUL The Iftflucucc of English Literature on Urdu Literature. (Calcutta 

MAJOOMDAR, p. c. Tlic Life and Teachings of Kesluih Chmider Sen. Calcutta 1887 
RADHAKRiSHNAN, s. Eastcrii Rcligiotis and Western Thought. London 1940 



SADiQ, MUHAMMAD A History of Urdu Literature, London 1964 
SEN, P. K. Biography of a New Faith. Calcutta 1950. [Bralimo Samaj] 

SMITH, w. c. Modem Islam in India, London 1948 
YUSUF ALi A Cultural History of India. Bombay 1940 


ALBiRUNi, A. H. Makers of Pakistan and Modern Muslim India. Lahore 1950 
ANDREWS, c. F., AND MUKERji, G. The Rise and Growth of Congress in India. London 

AZIZ, K. K. Britain and Muslim India. London 1963 
BOSE, s. c. The Indian Struggle, ig20-ig34. London 1935 
BRECHER, M. Nehtu, a Political Biography. London 1959 
COLLETT, s. D. Letters of Ram Mohun Roy. Calcutta 1962 
DESAi, A. K. Social Background of Indian Nationalism. Bombay 1948 
EDWARDES, M. The Lost Years of British India. London 1963, paperback cdn. London 

LAI. BAHADUR The MusUm League, Agra 1954 

MccuLLY, B. T, English Education and the Origins of Indian Nationalism New York 

MAjUMDAR, B. B. History of Political Thought in Bengal 1821-1884. Calcutta 1934 
MAJUMDAR, B. B. Indian Political A ssociatium and Reform of the Ugislature, 1818-1^17. 
('alcutta 1965 

MAJUMDAR, j. K. Indian Speeches and Documents on British Rule i82i-igi8. London 


MEHROiKA, s. R. India and the Commonwealth i88s-ig2g. London 1965 
MISRA, B. B. The Indian Middle Classes. London 1961 
NEHRU, j. An Autobiography. London 
SINGH, iQBAi Ramniohun Roy. Bombay 1961 
SMITH, w. R. Nationalism and Reform in India. New Haven 1938 
WOLPFRT, s. A. Tilak and Cokhale: Revolution and Reform in the Making of Modem 
India. Berkeley 1962 


Personal names arc given in small CAPirALS, except in tlie case of 
mythical or fictional characters, whose names appear in ordinary 
type. Foreign words, as well as titles of books, newspapers, and 
other publications, are printed in italics. 


ABDUL LATir, Sycd, 238-9 

Academic Association, 140 

ACLAND, Charles, 41 • 

ADAM, William, 253 

ADIGA, 271 

‘ab’ (A. E. Russell), 306 
AESOP, 136 

Afghanistan, 27, 29-30, 156, 158, 295 
Afghanistan, History of the IVar in, 40 
Afghans, 6, 23 
A(^e of Reason, 1 40 
Agency houses, 87-8, 90, 226 
Agra, 15,93, 103, 127,234 
Agruultural Co-operative Credit Sodcties 

Agricultural Institute, 218 
Agriculture, 83-6, 212, 216-22 
Agriculture, Rev enue and Coniincrv e. 
Department of, 217 
Ahmadiya movement, 264 5 
AllMEI) KHAN, Svecl, 239, 2O3-4, 28 1-2, 28f>, 


Alimed.ibad, 15, 24, 158, 255 
Aix-la-Chapelle, treaty of, 19 
Ajmer, 1 5 

AKiiAR, emperor, 3-4 
Alig-irh movement, 239, 263 
Allahabad, 23, 37 

All-India Trades Union Congress, 233 
Aliipka Palace, Crimea, 310 
AMANiiLi AH, king of Afghanistan, 15S 
Amboyna, 15 16 
American Mi,sion.u\ Scsciely, 255 
AMin HST, Lads , 254 
AMIHRSI, Lord, 28, 102 
Amiens, treaty of, 54 
AMIR ALT, Sycd, 263 -4 
Amritsar, 158, 167, 201-2 
ANAND, Mulk U.lj, 270 
Anandamath, 283 

‘Anglo-Indian’ literature, 41 3. 171-3, 316 
Arabic medicine, loS 
Archaeology, 3S, 168-70, 190, 244 

AKCIICR, W. G., 267 

Architecture, British in India, 45-6, 174-5, 
268 -9 

Architecture, Indian, 135, 169, 269, 309 

Arcot, 19, 22, 26 

Arjuna, 302, 306 

Armenians, 81 

ARNOLD, Edwin, 316 

ARNOLD, William Dclaficld, 41-2 

Art, British 111 India, 43-5, 133, 173 -4 

Art, Indian, 37-8, 132-3. 266-8, 309 

Art, Indian for the British, 132-5, 266 

Arya Samaj, 262, 264, 273-4 

Asiatic Society of Bengal, 37, 169, 303 

Adatuk RcHumhes, 37 

AsoKA, emperor, 38, 307 

y\ssain, 83, 162, 210 

AUCKLAND, Lord, 29-30 

AL RANGZi u, cmpcror, 4- 6, t6-i8, ijtj 

AUSTEN, Jane, 316 

Austrian SuccesMon, war of the, 19 

Ayurvedic medicine, 108 

BABUR, emperor, i 
Bat k hast, 173 
BAGON, I'raiKis, 119, 140 
BAHADUR SHAH I, ciiiperor, 6 
BAiLiY.Jcan Sylvain, 301 
BAJi RAO n, Peshwa, 8, 3 1 
BAKER, Sir Herbert, 17s 
Baikh, 29 

Baluchistan, 162, 294 

liande fatcrani, 282 

BAM RJLA, Surcndranalli, 190, 276- 8 

Banks and b.mkers, 9, 90, 225 

Bank of i nglaiid, 23 

Bantam, 1 5 

Bari-Doab i anal, 94 

DARM'M, Phineas 1 , 3 ir* 

Bansach, 91 
Barrack pore, 28 
Barry Lyndon, 317 
Batavia. 21 



Behind the BungaloWf 171 
Benares, 1 1 1, 126, 269, 289 
Benares Akhbar, 138 

Bengal, 17, 20-2, 38, 71-3, 75, 83, 86, 90-1, 
100, 105, 162-3, 210, 223, 225, 231, 

administration, 22-3, 47-70 passim, 177 
conquest, 7, 20-1, 94 

education, iio-ii, 113, 118-20, 237-8, 
240, 253-5 

governor/licutcnant-govcmor, 23, 106, 
178,229, 232, 238, 288 
land system and revenue, 49, 60, 63, 76, 

language and literature, 128, 136-8, 269-71 
nationalism, 139-45, 276-97 passim 
partition, 190, 196, 288 
Regulations, 49, 76-9, 97, 102-3 
religious revivalism, 127-32, 142-3, 258-62 
Bengal Army, 31, 151 
Bengal British India Society, 144 
Bengal Gazette, 137, 314 
Bengal Hurkuru, 144 

Bengali see Bengal, language and literature 
Bengal Native Infantry, 47th, 28 
BENTHAM, Jcrcmy, 57-8, 62, 66-8, 141, 207, 

BBNiiNCK, Lord William, 28-9, 34, 57, 63-4, 
68, 102-4, 114. 17^i 228 
BERGSON, Henri, 264 
BESANT, Mrs Annie, 275, 309 
BETMUNF, Urinkwater, 255 
BEVERIDGE, Mrs. Aimcttc, 166 
Bhagavad Gita, 302, 305 
Bharatpur, 28 


Bible, 136, 254 

Bibliothique Orienfale, 306 

Bihar, 60, Ii8, 133, 213, 218, 223-4, 253 

BIRKENHEAP, Lord, 203 

BIRIA, G. D., 225 

Bishop’s C^dlcgc, Calcutta, 116 

‘Black Act’, 1837, 36, 166 

BiAVATSKY, Miiic. Hclcua Petrovna, 275, 308 

BLORF, Edward, 310 

BLUNT, Wilfred Scawen, 278 

Board of Control, 25, 177 

Bokhara, 29 

Bombay, 16-17, 24-5, 59, 62, 64, 72, 74-5. 
90-1, 93-4. 144, 210, 225, 22/, 231, 
234, 278, 280, 283-4 
education, 119-20, 236, 247, 255 
governor, 25, 177, 266 
hospitals and medical schools, 108-9 
land system and revenue, 61, 79 
Bombay-Burmah Trading C'orporation, 

BOSE, Subhas Chandra, 291-3 
BRACKEN, Thomas, 87 
Brahma, 30s 

Brahma Sabha see Brahmo Samaj 

Brahmin caste, 105, 109-11, 118, 150, 252 
254, 256, 258, 285, 301-2, 316 
Brahmo Samaj, 129, 131, 143, 258-551, 273-4 
Brahmo Samaj, Sandharan, 259 
Brahmo Samaj of India, 258 
Bridgport, Connecticut, 310 
Brighton Pavilion, 310 
British and Foreign School Society, 254 
British India Society, 144 
British Indian Association, 144, 276, 285 
Brown Bess musket, 151 
BROWN, Thomas, 141 
BROWNING, Elizabeth Barrett, 270 
BUCHANAN, Dr. Francis, 38 
BUCK, B.J., 171 
Buddhism, 128, 168, 306-7 
BUN VAN, John. 136 
Burdwan, maharaja of, 105 
BURGESS, James, 168-9 
Burhanpur, 15 

BURKE, Edmund, 72, 95, 177, 313, 315 
Burma, 28, 31, 150-:^, 156, 204, 210 
BURNOUF, Eugene, 307 
BURNS, Robert, 316 
BURTON, Richard, 45 
BUSlliED, H. E., 1 71 

Buxar, battle of, 22 
Byculla Club, 189 
BYRON, Lord, 136, 140, 316 

Cabinet Mission, 1946, 162 
Calcutta, 17. 20-1, 32-3. 35, 37, 44-5. 50, 54, 
87-H, 93, 114, 129, 135, 139, 166, 169, 
175. 196, 234, 237, 276, 278 
Bishop’s College, 116 
Black Hole, 20- j 
Board of Revenue, 63 
Chamber of Commerce, 91 
Council, 21 
education, 1 30, 254 
Female Juvenile Society, 254 
Government House, 175 
Idindu College/ Presidency College, 112-3, 
119, 127, 139. 141-3 

Hindu Literary Society, 141 
hospitals, 108 

Landholdcrs’/Zamindari Association, 


Madrasa, 108, 111, 118, 126 

Medical College, 109 

medical school, 108 

Sanskrit College, 126 

School of Art, 266 

School Book Society, 112, 118, 254 

slaverv, 96-7 

Supreme Court, 72, too, 138' 

Trade Association, 91 
University, 121, 236, 246-7, 282 
Victoria Memorial Hall, 175 



Calicut, 314 
Cambridge, 296 
CAMPBELL, Sir George, 73, 238-9 
Camphor, 15 
CANDLER, Edmund, 172 
CANNING, Lord, 31, 174, 178 
CAPPER, John, 83-4 
CAREY, William, 97, 136 
CARLYLE, Thomas, 185, 305, 316 
Carbonari movement, 286 
Carnatic, 22, 26 

Caste system and customs, 2-3, 7, 93, 150, 
215, 220, 232, 239 

CATHERINE of Braganza, 16 
Central Asian Khanates, 27 
Central Legislative Council, 65, 69, 207. 
After 18 $8 see Government of India under 
the Crown 

Central Mohammedan Association, 280 

Central Provinces, 210 

CEZANNE. Paul, 268 

CHAKRAVARTi, Bihari Lai, 137 

CHAMBERLAIN, Houstoii Stewart, 307-8 

Chandernagore, 21 

Charcoal, 91 

CHARLES II, king, 16, 18 


Charter Act, 1813, 27, 55-6, 88, 90, 95t 112-3 

1833, 55-<5. 63, 65-6, 73. 90, 97, 

1853.69. 144. 207 

CHATTERJLE, Baiikim Chandra, 270, 


CHEZY, A. L. dc, 303 
CHn.D, Sirjosiah, 18 

Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, 257 

Cliilianwala, battle of, 30 

Cluna, 56-7, 83-4, 90, 301 

CHiNNERY, George, 44 

Chinsurah, 254 


Cholera, 235 

Chronicles of Dusty pore^ 171 

CHURCHILL, Winston, 3 1 7 

Chutanuti, 17 

Chutney, Mrs., 317 

Civil disobedience, 158-61, 295 

CLIVE, Robert, 19-22, 3SI-40, 47, 76 

Coal, 91, 223, 225 

cocKERiLL, Samuel Pepys, 309-10 

Code of Louisiana, 75 

Code of Manu, 77, 80 

Code Napoleon, 75 

COLE, Major H. H., 169 

COLERIDGE, Samuel Taylor, 305 

Colcroon, river, 94 

c.OMUi HMERE, Lord, 28 

Commerce, Department of, 224 

Communications, 69, 92, 145, iii-j passim 

Compentioii-lVallah, The, 170 

Confe^sSiom of a 7 hug, 4 1 

Congress, Indian National, 157-^3, i 86 , 
190-1, 194. 197. 199. 201, 203, 206, 
225, 250, 275, 278-97 passim 
COOKE, Miss, see Wilson, Mrs. 

Coorg, 29 
cooTE, Eyre, 25 

CORNWALUS, Lord, 25-7, 32-3, 48-53, 58-9, 
61-2, 66, 68, 74, 77-8, 80, 96, 179 
Cotton, 15, 56, 83-4, 88-9, 91-2, 212, 224-5, 


COTTON, Arthur, 94 
Council of India, 155, 177 
Cow protection, 4, 282-3, 318 
Crimea, 234, 310 
CRiPPS, Sir Stafford, 161 
CROMER, Lord, 185-6 
CROMWELL, Ohver, 16, 42 
Crystal Palace, 311 
Cuddalore, 18 

CUNNINGHAM, Alexander, 38, 168 

Curry, General Sir Rice, 317 
Curse of Kehama, The, 316 
CURZON, Lord, 169-70, 175, 187-94, 206, 
218, 230-1, 242-8, 252, 288 

Dacca, 89, 310 

DALHOUSIE, Lord, 30-1, 69-70, 93, 149, 

177-9. 189. 255 
Damnes de ITnde, Les, 305 
Dandi, 1 59 

DANIELL, Thomas and William, 40, 44, 133, 


Dark Room, The, 270 
DAS, c. R., 159 
DAULAT RAO See Sindia 

DAYANANDA SABAS WATI, 26 1 -2, 273-4, 282, 


Deccan, 8, 22, 28, 60, 149 

Deccan Agriculturalists Relief Act, 1879,213 

Deccan College, 283 

Delhi, 6, 26, 37, 93-4, 97, 102-3, K26, 134, 

Delhi, New, 175, 196, 206, 218 

Delhi Territory, 69, 93 

DELL, Ethel M., 271 

DCO NARAIN SINGH, raja, 179 

Departmental Ditties, 172 

DEROZio, Henry Louis Vivian, 136, 139-43 

Dtvis, Arthur, 43 

Dhania, 70-1, 262 

DICKENS, Charles, 316 


'J 3 irect action’, 162-3 

DISRAELI, Benjamin, 182 

Diu'ani, of Bengal, 22-3 

‘Doctrine of lapse’, 31, 149 

‘Doctrine of rent’, 60-1, 192-3 

DDYiE, Arthur Conan, 271 



D*OYLY, Sir Charles, 44, 133-4 
DRAPER, Mrs. Eliza, 316 
Dresden, 135 

*Oual system* of government, 47 
DUFF, Dr. Alexander, 114, 130 
DUFF, James Grant, 40 
DUFFERIN, Lord, 1 86, 279-80 
DUPBRRON, Anquctil, 302 
DUPLFjx, Joseph Francois, 19 
Dutch, the, 15-16, 21 
DUTT, Aru, 269 

DUTT, Michael Madhusudan, 136-7 
DUTT, Romesh Chandra, 190, 192-3. 269 
DUTT, Toru, 269 

Dyarchy, 158, 199, 204, 218, 235, 249-50 
DYER, Brigadicr-Gcncral Reginald, 158, 167, 

East India Company, Dutch, 15-16 
East India Company, English, 15-16 
adnuiiistration, 25, 27, 32, 47-70 passim, 

107. 143 

agricultural policy, 83-6 
changing role of, 16, 18-9, 21-3, 26-7, 
55-6, 86, 88, 90 

Charters, 16; (1813), 27, 55-6, 88, 90, 95, 
112-3, I 3 i;(i« 33 ). 55 - 6 , 63,65-6,73, 
90, 97, I J6, (1853), 69, 144, 207 
courts, 37, 64, 71-2, 79 
Directors, 24 -5, 27, 30, 33, 53, 61, 66, 78, 
educational policy, 110-27 ptfssim 
fin.inctal ditlicultics, 15-17, 23-4, 63 
Hailcybury C^illege, 57 
land policy, 60-2, 75--8o, 88, 92 
religious and social policy, 54-5, 95, loi, 
107, 1 16, 121, 139 

trade, competition and inoiuipoly, t6 , 18, 
21-2, 28, 5S-7, 83, 86-9, 90 
East India Company, Frcmh, 16, 19, 302 
hast Lynne, 271 
Echoes from Old Cahutta, 171 
EDEN, Ashley, 232 
Edinburgh, 3 1 1 
Edinbursih Review, 68 
Education, 55, 70, 110- 27, 236-57 
Arabic, no, 113, 122, 124-6 
Enghsh, 56-7, no, 112-15, 117-25, 127, 
135-7, 142, 237-9. 244. 252, 255. 

269, 319 

female, 105-6, 241, 253-7 

higher, 119, 237, 240-1, 244, 247-8, 250, 


mission school, 105, 112, 116, 119-21, 130, 


‘Oriental’ theories of, no-ii, 113-4 
primary and secondary, 115, 119, 237-8, 
240-1, 244, 257 

Sanskrit, no, 113, 122, 124-6, 256 

technical and saentific, 113, 119, 242-4, 
246-9. 253 

university see Universities 
vernacular, 115, 119-20, 237, 243-4, 256 
Education, Bengal Council of, 255 
Education, Central Advisory Board of, 250 
Educauon Despatch 1854, 120, 236, 240, 255 
Education, Minute on, 1835, 114, 122-7 
Education, Simla Conference, 242-6 
EDWARD vm, kiiig-cmperor, 158 
EDWARDBS, Herbert, 36, 40 
EDWARDS, Lionel, 174 

Egypt. 185 

EiiA, (£. H. Aitken), 171 
Elcphanta, 37 
ELIOT, T. s., 271, 317 
ELPHINSTONB, Mouiitstuart, 28, 39-40, 50-1, 
62, 71 

EMERSON, Ralph Waldo, 305 
FMERSON, Sir William, 175 
EMPSON, William, 57 
Enfield rifle, 1 5 1 
English in India, The, 41 
English 1 eacher. The, 270 
Englishman, The, 141, 278 

Essai sur ITnegalite des Races humatnes, 307-8 
Furasians, 81, 199, 245, 314 
European and Anglo-Indian Defence Asso- 
ciation, t66 

Evangchc.nls, 28, 35, 53-5. 57-8, 95, 112, 


Evening Walk in Bengal, An, 43 
EWER, Mr., 100 
Ezvur Vedam, L’, 302 

lA-iisiEN, 39 
Fairchild Family, 1 he, 41 
Famine, 4, 9, 84-5, 178, 182, 193, 228-31 
Famine Code, 229 -3 1 
Famine Commission, 1866, 216 
1871, 213 
1880, 217, 229 
1901, 217, 230 
Farewell to India, A, 317 
Faust, 304 

FERGUSON, Colonel, ofHuntly Biirn, 316 
FFRGUSSON, James, 39, 170, 306 
Fiscal Commission, 225 
FORBES, James, 40 
FORSTER, E. M., I72, 317 

Fort St. David, i8 

Fort St. George, Madras, 17, 25 

Fort William, Calcutta, 17-2©, 109, 127 

Forward Bloc, 293 

France and the French, 7, 18-21, 24, 26-7, 54, 
French Revolution, 303 



fiBBB, Barde. 178 
FUUBR, Bamfyldc, 192 

Gains of Learning Act, 1930, 21 5 
GAMA, Vasco da, 96 

GANDHI, Mohandas Karamchand, 158-61, 
204, 235, 262-3, 270. 273, 275, 289-95. 

309. 312 

Gancsha/Ganapati, 283 

Ganges, nvcr, 301, 303 

Ganges canal, 94 

Ganapati. see Gancsha 

GARIBALDI, GiuseppC, 276 

GAUGUIN, Paul, 267 

GBORGB IV, king, 310 

German Romantic writen, 303-5, 307 

GHAZI-UD-DIN, king of Oudh, 44 

GHOSE, Aurobindo, 261, 270 

GHULAM AHMED, Mirza, 264 

Giaour t 77ie, 316 

GLADSTONE, William Ewart, 183 -4. 198 
Goa, 17 

Co<i and the Blue Mountains, 45 
GOBiNEAU, Arthur de, 307-8 
GODSE, N. V., 293 
GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang, 304 
GOKHALB, Gopal Krishna, 196, 247. 287 
Golden Threshold, The, 270 
Goldene Top/, Die, 305 
Goldmore, Colonel, 317 
GOLDSMITH, Oliver, 271 
Gondalapura, 271 
Gott und die Bajadere, 304 
GOUGH, Sir Hugh, 30 
Government House, Calcutta, 175 
Government of India under the Crown. For 
period prior to 1858 see East India 

administration, 176-207 passim, 319 
attitude to nationalists, 159-61, 196, 198, 
200, 202, 206, 257, 287 
central legislative assembly, 1919 Act, 
157-8, 199-200 

legislative council, pre-1919, 155-7, 
178-9, 186-7, 19^. r95i 213, 215, 230, 

legislature, 1935 Act, 160, 204-5 
constituent assembly, 1946, 162-4 
dyarchy, reserved and transferred subjects, 
158, 199, 204, 218, 235, 249-50 
finance, 187, 212, 216, 221, 225, 227, 235-6, 
frontier policy, 1 56 
municipal mstitutions, 184 
provincial governments, 1935 Act, 160, 

legislative assemblies, 1919 Act, 157-6, 

legislauve councils, pre-1919. i5<^7, 
178, 186-7, 191, 195-6, 285 

restrictions on government action. 155, 

177. 227 

revenue, 192, 194, 212, 216-7 
secretary of state for India, 155, 177, 227, 
245. 276 

social pohey, 176, 206, 211, 214-5, 218. 
228-36, 240, 274 

viceroy’s executive council, 156, 160, 
162-3, 1 81, 199 

Government oflndia Act, 1858, 155 

1919 (Montagu-Chclmsford reforms), 157, 
159. 199-203,218. 249 
1935. 160, 204 

Governor-general’s /viceroy’s executive 

council. 65-6, 102, 156, i6o, 162-3, 
181, 199 
Govindpur, 17 
Grand Trunk Road, 93 
GRANT, Charles, 53, 55-7, 86, 9s, t i s 
Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of 
All Nations, 3 1 1 
‘Great Game’, 29 

GRINDLAY, Captain Robert Melville, 44 
Gnmdlafien des neunzehnten jtihrlmndcrts, 307 
Guerre dtt Ni^ram, La, 305 
Gujarat, 24, 30, 262 
Gujarati language, 138 
GULAD siNGii of Kashmir, 30 
GUNDERODK, Karolinc von, 304 
Cfuntur, 84 

GUPTA, Madhusudan, 109 
Gurkha war, 27 
Gwalior, 30, 179 

HAIDAR AU of Mysore, 22 5 
HAIDAR ALI KHAN, tomb of. 3O9 
Haileybury College, 57 
HAMILTON, Alexander, 303 
llanafi system of law, 78 
Harappa, 170 

HARDINGE, Lord (governor-generalj, 30 
HARDINGE, Loni (victToy), 196 
HARDY, R. Spence, 307 
HASTINGS, Marquess of, 27 8, 94, 112 
HASTINGS, Warren, 23-5, 33, 37. 40, 47 - 8 , 
71-2, 76,96, 106, 111, 137. 302, 313 

HAVELL, E. D , 266 • 

Health, Advisory Board of, 23 5 
Health of the Army in India, Statutory 
Commission on the, 234 
HEBER, Bishop Reginald, 43, 1 3 5, 254 
HEGEL, Georg Wilhelm bricdruh, 2H3 
HEINE, Heinrich, 305 
HEMADRl, 80 

HERDER, Johann Gottfried, 303 
HESSE, Hermann, 307 
HICKY, Janies Augustus, 137, 314 
High Courts Act, jS6i, 210 
Himachal Pradesh, 132 



Hind Swaraj, 235 

Hindi, language and literature, 3, 138, 250 
Hindu College/Presidency College, X12-3, 

119. 139. 141-3 

Hindu Law of Inheritance (Amendment) 
Act 1929, 214 

Hindu Literary Society, 141 
Hindu Mahasabha, 292^3 
Hindu Married Woman's Right to Separate 
Residence and Maintenance Act 
(Bombay), 1946, 215 

Huidu Widows' Remarriage Act (Bengal), 
1856, 105 

Hmdu Women's Right to Property Act, 

1937. 215 

Hinduism and Hindus, 1-10, 16-17, 28, 90, 
93. 9<^7. 99. 102, 104, 109, 151, 162, 
199. 206, 235 

ceremonies, 4, 54, 100, 131 
education, iio-ii, 114. 118-9, 238 
land system, 3, 70-81 passim 
law, 47, 62, 70-81 passim, 128, 208, 214-5 
literature, 2, 135-9, 269-72, 309, 312 
marriage, 105-6, 215, 228, 257-8, 
politics, 143-5, 178, 280-97 passim 
rehgion and reform, 2, 106, 127-32, 
142-3, 150, 258-63, 27i-5. 280, 304. 

social system, 2, 10, 149-50, 239 
see also caste as separate heading 
HITLER, Adolf, 308 
HOARS, Captain, 37 
HOCKLEY, W.B., 4 1 
HODGES, William, 44 
HODGSON, Brian, 307 
HOFFMAN, E. T. A., 305 
HOLKAH, jaswant Rao, 26 
HOLWF.I I , Jusiah, 20-1 
Holy fair, 316 
HOME, Robert, 44 
Hospitals, 108-9, 235 
Hugh, river, 17, 234 
HUGO, Victor, 271 
HUME, Allan Octavian, 279-81 
HUMP, David, 140-1 
HUMPHRY, Ozias, 44 
Hunter Commission, 201-2 
HUNTER, Sir W. W., 170, 237 
HUXLEY. Aldous, 317 
Hyderabad, 22, 26, 134-5, 246, 252, 309 
Nizam of, 8, 22-3, 26 
Hymn to Brahma, 42 
Hymn to India, 42-} 

IBSEN, Henrik, 271 
llbert Bill, 278 
ILBERT, Sir Courtenay, 278 
Imperial Institute, London, 289 
India Act, 1784, 25, 78 

India Independence Act, 1947, 164 
India Independence League, 292 
India League, 160, 276 
Indian Army, 27, 197, 234-5 
Indian Association, 276-8 
Indian (and Statutory) Civil Service, 25, 
i82r-3, 219, 240, 272, 276-7, 282 
Indian Councils Act, 1861, 178-9 
1892, 187, 191.285 

1909 (Morley-Minto reforms), 157, 194-6, 

Indian Day, An, 317 

Indian and Eastern Architecture, History of, 170, 


Indian Medical Service, 109 

Indian National Army, 292 

Indian Statutory Commission, 257 

Indian Succession Act, 1865, 209 

Indian Women's University, 256 

Incbgo, 15. 83, 88, 213, 224 

Indc^hina, 156 

Indore, 26 

Indus, river, 29 

Industrial Commission, 224-5 

Industry, Indian, 88-92, 212, 222-7, 285-6, 


Infanticide, female, 34, 97-9. 106, 150 
Introduction d VHistoire de Bouddhism Indien, 


IQBAL, Muhammad, 264, 295 
Iranistan, 310 

Ireland, Easter Rebellion, 1916, 197 

Irish Home Rule Bill, 184 

Iron and steel, 91, 224 

Irrigation, 83, 93~4, 219, 221, 226, 228-9 

IRWIN, Lord, 160, 203-4 

Islam see Muslims 

JAHANGIR, emperor 4, 15 
Jains and Jainism, 262, 267 
Jallianwalla Bagh, 201-2 
Jamshedpur, 224 

Japan and the Japanese, 15, 161, 206, 292 
Jews, 81 
Jhansi, 31, 149 


jiNNAH, Muhammad Ali, 159, 161, 164, 

JOHNSON. Samuel, 119, 271 
JOHNSON, William, 174 
jONPS, Sir William, 37, 42, 72, 96, 303 
JOSEPHINE, French empress, 3 1 1 
Jubbulpore, 104 
Jumna, river, 24 
Jumna canal , West, 94 
East, 94 

Jute, 83,91, 224-5 



Kali, 54. 104. 150 

KALIDASA, 303-4 

Kalighat, 268 
Kanara, 26 

Kandan the Patriot, 270 
Kannada language, 271 
KANT, Immanuel, 283 
Karachi, 164. 206 
KARVB, Dr., 256 
Kashmir, 29-30, 264, 294, 311 
KAYR.JotmWilham, 40-1. 174 
KEiGWiN, Richard, 17 
KBMAL ATATURK, 292, 295 
Kesari, 283-4, 288 
KETTLE, Tilly, 43-4 
Khaksar movement, 264, 296 
Kharaj tax, 78 

Khilafat movement, 264, 295 
KILPATRICK, Major James, 21 
Kim, 1 71 

KiPUNG, Riidyard, 171-3, 316 
KLEE, Paul, 267 
Kohinoor diamond, 6 
Kora, 23 

Koran, the, 80, 263-4 
Krishna, 302, 306 
KROPOTKIN, Prince Peter, 290 
Kulins, 105-6 

LA BOURDONNAis, Dcrtrand Francois Malie dc, 


Ladakh, 29 

Lahore, 30, 1 59, 296 

i^KE, General, 26 

LALA LAJPAT RAI, 289, 292 

LALLY, Thomas Arthur, Comte dc, 21 

Lancashire cloth, 88, 278 

Land Acquisition Act, 227 

Land tenures and systems, 

Permanent Settlement, 1793, 76-9, 193 
pre-british, 3, 76-8, 80 
revenue and assessment, 3-4, 9, 48-9, 57, 
59-62, 76-8, 82, 85, 94, 190-4, 212. 
216, 221 

ryotwari, 59-60, 78-80, 82 
zamindari, 60, 76-80, 82, 212-3 
see also Law, land 

Landholders/Zamindari Association, 143-4 

LANDON, Mr., 91 


administration, 33, 47-70 passim, 71, 107, 
180, 184-5,209-11, 319 
codification, 56, 62, 65, 68, 73, 75, 207-11 
courts, 24, 37, 48, 64, 71-2, 81, 100, 106-7, 
210, 221 

English, 81, 209, 21 1 

Hindu, 47, 62, 70-4, 77-8, 80-1, 128, 208, 
214-5, 302 
labour, 231-3 

land, 61-2, 64, 75-80, 107, 21 1-4 

MiLvlim, 47, 70-4, 78, 80-1, 208, 214 
relating to non-Indians, 36, 48, 74i 8i, 166, 

relating to women, 105-6, 215 
Law Commissions, 56, 62, 66, 73 -- 5 i 81, 

Law Member (of governor - general's / 
viceroy's executive council), 66, 179, 
207, 246. 255,278 
LAWRENCE, Henry, 30 
LAWRENCE, Lord, 36, 69, 176-7, 229, 234-S 
League of Nations, 158 
LEYDEN, John, 43 
Little Henry and his Bearer, 41 
LOCKE. John, 50 

London Missionary Society, 254 

Lucknow, 44, 134-5, 296 

Lucknow Pact , 197, 199 

Ludhiana, 30 

LUTHER, Martin, 244 

LUTYENS, Sir Edwin, 175 

LYALL, Sir Alfred, 170, 173, 186, 194 -5 

LYTTON, bulwrr, 270 

LYTTON, Lord, 182 

MACAULAY, Lord, 40, 53, 57, 62, 64, 66-8, 73, 
75, 106, 114-7, 143, 207, 243. 272, 306 
MACDONALD, Raiiisay, 203-4 
MACKENZIE, Holt, 60-I 
Mackenzie, Mrs., 316 
Mackems, Colonel, 316 
MACPHERsoN, Sir John, 25 
Madras, 17 20, 23-5, 28, 43, 55, 59, 64, 72, 
75, 85, 93, 103. 135, 138. 144, 210. 
234, 280 

Chamber of Commerce, 245 
education, 119-21, 236, 247, 255 
governors, 25, 177 
hospitals and medical schools, loH -9 
irrigation, 94 
land tenure, 79 
Madrasa, C'alcutta, to8 
MAETP.RLINC.K, Maurice, 271 
Mafassal courts, 71 
Mahahharata, 269 
Mahrattas, History of the, 40 
MAjER, Friedrich, 304 
Malabar, 16, 26, 295 

MALABARI, H. M., 215 

Malaya, 185 

MALCOLM, John, 39--40. 50-2, 61-2 
Managing agencies, 226 
Manchester C^hamber of Commerce, 216 -7 
Manu, Code of, 77, 80 
Manual of Buddhism, 307 
Marathas, 6, 8-10, 16, 18, 23-4, 26-7, 40, 51, 
71.73.93. 106-7. 283 
Marathi language, 271 
MARSiiAiL.John, 169-70 



MABSHMAN, Joshua, 1 3 8 
Marwar, laja of, lOO 
Marwaris, 223 
MASHUQi, 296 
Masulipatam, treaty of, 23 
MAX-MUUBR, Friedrich, 306 
MAYOrLord, 183, 216-9, 237 
MAZziNi, Giuseppe, 276-7 
Medicine, 108-9, 235 
Meghaduta, 304 
MBRYpJos^he, 305 

MBTCAUB, Charles Theophilus, 29, 50-1, 62, 
69,96,102, 107 

Middle classes, Indian, 36, 87, 89-91, no, 
X15-7, 120-1, 135, 139, 143-4, 176, 
181, 183, 194, 21 1, 236, 242, 249. 231, 
263-6, 279. 285. 297. 319 

MiLBURN, William, 90 

Military Transactions of the British Nation in 
Indostan, History of the, 39 
MILL, James, 37-62, 63-6, 68, 73, 115, 283 
MiLTON,Jolm. 119, 136, 313 
MiNDON MIN, king of Burma, 136 
MiNTO, Lord, 27, 93, 1 1 1 . 194-3 
MIB KASIM, 21-2 

Mirut-uUAkhhar, 138 

Missions and missionaries, Christian, 34, 33, 
95 . 97 . 105. 109. 1 12, 1 16, 1 19. 130-I. 
133-8. 142, 233, 234-5. 264-3, 302 
Mohammedan Association, 280 
Mohenjodaro, 170 

MOIRA, Lord, see Hastings, Marquess of, 
MOisiN, Haji Muhammad, 239 
Moluccas, 13 

MONTAGU, Edwin, 198-201 
Montagu-Chclmsford reforms see Govern- 
ment of India Act 1919 
Moombaina Samachar, 138 
Moplahs, 293 
MORLBY.john, 194-6, 198 
Morley-Minto reforms see Indian Coimcils 
Act 1909 

MOUNTBATTBN, Lord, 1 63-4 
Mughal empire, i-io, 16^17, 19, 26, 70, 99, 

MUHAMMAD AH (Muslim nationalist), 293 
MUHAMMAD Au, Nawab of Arcot, 22, 26 
Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, 239 
Muhammadans see Muslims 
Multan, 30 

MUNRO, Thomas, 28, 30-2, 39, 61-2, 79, 96, 


Murshidabad, 21, 133-4 
Muslim League, 159, 161-3, 197, 289-97 

Muslims, 1-10, 32, 34, 109, 128, 131, 162, 
195. 197. 199. 206, 233. 249 
education, iio-i, 118-9, 238-9, 263 
isolation, 3, 132 
land system, 70-81 passim 

law, 47, 70-81 passim, 208, 214 
hterature, 133 
marriage, 106, 228 
politics. 143, 157, 290-97 passim 
religion and philosophy, 127, 132, 263-4 
Mussulmans and Moneylenders, 170 
Mutiny, Indian, 31, 70, 139, l49-52» 163 
Muzafiapur, 288 
Mysore, 22. 26, 29, 38 
sultan of, 22-3 

see also Haidar Ali, Tipu Sultan 

Nabob of Arcot see muhammad au 
Nabobs, 311-2, 316 
Nadia, 1 10 
NADIR shah, 6 

Nagpur, 31, 149. 224 

NAIDU, Mrs. Sarojini, 270 
NAOROji, Dadabhai, 287, 289 
Napoleonic wars, 26 

NARAYAN, R. K., 27O 
NASH, John, 310 

National Liberal Federation of India, 201 
Nationalism and nationalists, 121, i 3 S)- 43 , 
157-64, 166-7, 182, 186, 189-90, 194, 
19^8, 200-4, 216, 218, 221, 237, 261, 
267, 269, 274-97. 309. 317-8 

Nawabs of Bengal, 23, 133 
see also Siraj-ud-daula, Mir Jafar, and Mir 

Nawabs of Oudh see Oudh 

NEHRU, Jawaharlal, 270, 288, 290-1, 294 

NBHRU, Motilal, 159 

Nepal, 27, 307 

Newcomes, The, 316 

New Dispensation, 239 

New York, 275, 308 

Newspapers see Press 

Nibandh Mala, 271 

NICHOLSON, John, 36 

NiETZCHB, Friedrich, 264 

Nigeria, 183 

Night falls on Siva's Hill, 317 
NIGHTINGALE, Florcncc, 234 
Nizam see Hyderabad 
Nobel Prize, 270 
Non-violence, 262. 290, 309 
North-West Frontier and North-West Fron- 
tier Province, 156, 138, 162-3, 170. 

North-Western Provinces, 61, 63. 120, 210, 
228, 239, 283 
Norwich, 31 1 

Oakfield, or Fellowship in the East, 41, 
o’coNNEU, Daniel, 279 
Ode to an Indian Gold Coin, 43 



OLCOTT, Colonel, 308 
Ow the Face of the Waters, 172 
Opium, 56, 83 
Opium war, 83 
Orenburg, 30 
Oriental Field Sports, 44 
Oriental Memoirs, 40 
Oriental Races and Tribes, 174 
Oriental Scenery, 44, 309 
Orissa, do, 178, 223, 229 
ORMB, Robert, 39 
Osmania university, 252 
Oudh, 10, 31, 44, 98, 134, 149, 210 
Nawabs of, 22-3, 3 1, 151 
Oupnekhat, 302 
Oxford, 135 
oxiNDEN, Henry, 16 

PAINE, Thomas, 140 
Paisley, 31 1 

Pakistan, 163-4, 206, 294-6 
PAL, Bipin Chandra, 289 
Pali laiguage, 306 
Panchayats, 9, 70-I 
Pandarung Hari, 41 
Panipat, batde of, 23 

Papers regarding the Land Revenue System of 
British India, 192 
Paradise Lost, 315 

PARAMAiiAMSA, Ramakhshna, see rama- 


Targanas, Twenty-four’, 21 
Paris, treaty of, 22 

Parliament, Briush Houses of, 18, 23-4, 64, 
72, 89, 96, 103, 1 19, 155. 163, i77-9» 
iy8, 200, 231,287, 313# 315 
Parsees, 81, 90-1, 214, 224-5, 287 

Parsifal, 307 

Paruuon of India, 163-4, 206-7, 264, 296 
Parvati, 104 

Passage to India, 172, 3 17 
Patemahsm, 50-2, 62-5, 69, 95, 120, 176-7, 

Patiala, maharaja of, 179 

Patna, 44. 119. 133*4 

Peacock Throne, 6 

Penal Code, 74-5. 97. 207-8 

People of India, The, 174 

Pepper, 15,315 

Peregrine Pultuney, 33-4, 41 

Permanent Settlement, 1793, 76-9, 193 

Persia, 27 

Persian language and alphabet, 3, 32, no, 

135. 138, 238, 302,313 
Pcshwi of the Marathas see baji rao 11 
PHIPPS, Henry, 218 
Photography, 174 
Pilgrim's Progress, 136 

Pindaris, 27 
Pioneer, The, 166 
Plague Commissioners, 284 
Pla^y, battle of, 7, 21, 94, 151 
PLATO, 305 

Poet's Mistake, The, 172 
Police, 49, 51,63-4 
Political History of India, 39 
Pondicherry, 261 

Poona, 24. 26. 93. 144. 255-^. 283-4 
Popular Account of the Manners and Customs of 
India, A, 41 

Population and other statistics, (agriculture) 
192; (Congress), 282, 285; (education) 
237-8, 240, 247. 249-51. 254-7; 
(Europeam), 91 ; (middle classes), 286; 
(total) 200; (towns and cities), 17, 89, 
234; (trade union), 234 
PORDBN, William, 3 10 
Porto Novo, battle of, 25 
Portugal and the Portuguese, 15-16, 81, 131, 
310,312 » 

Preservation of National Monuments in India, 

Presidency College see Hindu College 
Press, 67, 137-9. 141. 166, 183, 269, 278 
pRicx, Lieutenant, 37 

Pnnees and Princely states, 4-5, 8-9, 29, 97, 

103. 132. 139. 149-52. 155. 160. 1*9. 
194, 203-4, 269 

see also under names of individual states 
PRINSBP, James, 38, 307 
Privy Council, 103, 138 
Pubhc Instruction, General Committee of, 

113-4.125. 127 

Public Service Coitimission, Indian, 183 
Pubhc Works Department, 174, 245 
Punjab, 9, 27, 29-30, 37. 6**9. 94. too, 
103, 158, 162-3, 170,201-2, 210, 264, 


Punjab Land Alienation Dill, 1899, 213-4 
‘Punjabee’ see Arnold, William Delafield 
Pusa, 218 

RAIIMAT AU, Chaudhuri, 294-5 
Railways, 31, 69-70. 91. 93. *57. 166. 194. 

223-4, 226, 228-30, 262, 265 
Raj Mohun'sUfe, 270 
Rajasekhera Chavitram, 271 
Rajasthan, 132, 267 
Rajput states, too 
Rajputana, 27-8, 103 
Rajputs, 6, 97-9 
Rajshahye, 238 
RAuacii, Thomas, 246 
RAMABHAi, Pandiu, 256 


BRITISH INDIA 1772-1947 

RAMAKBISHNA PAIAMAHAMSA, 2 $ 9 - 6 l, 274-5, 


Ramayam, 269, 307 

Rambles and Recollections of an Indian OfficiaU 


RANADB, Mahadev Govind, 287 
RAND, Mr., 284 
Rangoon, x6i 
RANJIT SINGH, 9, 27, 29-3O 
REDON, Odilon, 307 
Reformer ^ Tfir, 143 

Regulating Act, 1773, 23-4, 48, 72, 94 
REID, Thomas, 141 

Religious Instructions founded ^ on sacred 
Authorities, 128 
REMUSAT, Abel, 39 

Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms, 198 

REPTON, Humphry, 310 

RICARDO, David, 58 

RiPON, Lord, 183-4, 231, 240, 278-9 

Roads, 91-J 

ROSENBERG, Alfred, 307-8 

ROSS, Alexander, 67 

Round Table Conlnence, 160, 203-4 

ROUSSEAU, Jean-Jacques, 283 

ROWLATT, Mr. Justice, 200 

ROY, Januni, 267-8 

ROY, Rani Mohun, 102-3, 113, 128-30, 136, 
138-9, 141-3, 258, 263, 273 
RUMi, 264 
RUSKIN, John, 26a 
Russia, 29-30, 1 56, 198 
Ryots and ryotwari system see Land 

Sacred Books of the East, 306 
Sadler Commission, 248 
S<iJr courts, 71-2, 210 
SAINT-HILAIRE, Harthclcniy, 307 
Sakuntala, 303-4 
Salsette, 24 

Samachar Chandrika, 138 
Samachar Durpan, 138 
Sambad Kaumudi, 138 
Sanchi, 38 

Samtary Commissions, 234-5 
Sankissa, 38 

Sanskrit College, Benares, 108, 1 1 1, 126 
Sanskrit College, Calcutta, 126 
Sanskrit education see Education 
Sansknt language and literature, 37-8, 110, 
122-8 passim, 135-6, 256, 269, 302-5 
sARASWATi, Dayananda see dayananda 
Saiara, 31, 149 
Saugor. 97 

savarkar, Vinayak Damodar, 292-3 
Stft'irn, 270 

Scenery, Costumes and Architecture. . . t’w the 
IVestern Side of India, 44 
SCHELIING, Friedrich, 304 

SCHILLBR, Johann Christoph Friedrich, 304 
SCHLBGEL, Friedrich von, 303-4 
SCHOPENHAUER, Arthur, 302 
SCOTT, Sir Walter, 136, 270, 316 
Sedition Acts, 200 
Select Views, 44 

SEN, Keshub Chunder, 258-9, 261-2, 273 
Serampur, 136, 138 
SERFAji, raja ofTanjore, 135 
Scringapatam, 26 
Servants of India Society, 287 
Sevres, treaty of, 295 
Sezincote, 309-10 
Shabby Genteel Story, /I, 3 17 
SHAFTESBURY, Lord, 23 1 
SHAH ALAM, CmpCFOr, 22-3, ^6 
SHAHjAHAN, eiiipcfor, 4, 9, 103 
SHAW, George Bernard, 271 
SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe, 140, 303, 316 
SHER-GiL, Amnta, 267-8 
SHERWOOD, Mrs., 41 
SHORF, Sir John, 26, 77 
Shri Ram, Revolutionist, 172 
Siddartha, 307 
Siege of Corinth, The, 85 
Sikhs and Sikhism, 3, 27, 30, 100, 199, 265, 

Sikhs, History of the, 40 
Silk, 15, 18, 301 
Simla, 162, 171 

Simla Education Conference, 242-6 

Simla: Past and Present, 171 

Simon C^ommission, 159, 202-3 

SIMON, Sir John, 203 

Sind, 27, 29-30, 68, 162, 210, 294 

siNDiA, Daulat Uao, 26 

siNDiA, Mahadaji, 24, 26 

Singh Sabhas, 265 

Sinn Fein movement, 286 


Siva, 104 

SIVAJI, 16, 283 

Slavery, 95-7 

SLF±MAN, Sir William, 10, 41, 97-9, 104 
SMART, John, 43 
SMITH, Adam, 1 41 
Smitris, 80 

Song of Death, The, 173 

Sonnet to the Pupils of the Hindu College, 140 

SOUTHEY, Robert, 3 1 

Spice Islands, 1 5 

Spirit of Islam, The, 264 

Spitalfields silk weavers, 18 

Statistical information see Population 

STEEL, Flora Annie, 172 

STLiN, Aurcl, 170 

STEPHEN, Sir James Fitzjames, 75, 176, 
179-80, 184-7, 208, aho 
STERNE, Laurence, 3 16 
STEVENSON, Robert Louis, 3 16 



STBWART, Dugald, 141 
STVACHEY, Sir John, 181, 186-7 
Suez canal, 171 

sunPBBN, Pierre Andr£ de, Admiral, 24 
Sugar, 225 
Sumatra, 15 

Supreme Courts, 24, 48, 72. 81, 100, 106-7, 
Surat, 15-16 

Surgeon* s Daughter, The, 316 
SUTHBKLAND, Dr. John, 234 
Suttee, 34. 99-103, X06, 138, 150, 304 
Swadeshi movement, 288, 317 
Swaraj, 159, 317 
SWBDBNBOKG;, Emanuel, 305 
Sylhet, 163 

TAGORB, Abanindranath, 266, 268 
Deboidranath, 130-1, 258, 273 
Dwarkanath, 129-30, 138 
Gogonendranath, 266 
Prasanna Kumar, 143 
Rabindranath, 267, 269-70, 273 
Taj Mahal, 9, 103, 170 
Takaza, 70-x 
Tamit Catechism, 281 
Tamil language and literature, 138 
Tanjore, 26, 134-5 
Tariffs 88-90 
TATA, Jamsetji, 224, 246 
Tattvabodhani Sabha, 130 
Taxation and rent, 3-5, 17, 48-y, 56, ss^6o, 
76-8, 192-4, 227 
TAYLOR, Philip Meadows, 41 
Tea, 56, 83, 225 
Telegraphs, 31, 69, 155 
Telugu language, 271 
Temples, administration of, 54-5 
Territorial Department, 60 
THACKERAY, William Makepeace, 39, 3i<^7 
Theosophical Society, 275, 308-9 


THiBAW, king of Burma, 1 56-7 

THOMASON, James, 120 

THOMPSON, Edward, 172, 1 17 


THORBAU, Henry David, 262 

Thugs and Thuggee, 34, 41. 103-6, 150 

TiLAX, Bal Gangadhtf, is>6-7, 238-4, 286, 


Times, The, London, 103, 184 
hmur, I 

Tipu SULTAN of Mysore, 23, 25-6 
TOD, Colonel James, 28, 39 
TOLSTOY, Count Leo, 262, 271. 290, 307 
Trade and commerce, 4, 10, 15, 21-2, 83-4, 
86-8, 91, 222r7 
Trade Union Act, 1926, 233 
Transcendentalisti, American, 305 

Transport, 84, 91-3, 167, 222-7 passim, 230 
TRBVBLYAN, Charles, 70, 89, 1 1 5, 1 17 
1 RBVBLYAN, George, 170, 208 
Turkey, 197.292,295 
Twenty-Oie l^ys in India, 171 

Udaipur, 103 

Unani medicine, 108 

United Indian Patriotic Associajtion, 281 

United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, 213 

United States of America, and Americans, 

84, 88,91.305.308,311 

Universities, 121, 236, 243, 246-8, 250, 
256-7, 269 

Universities Act, 1904, 247-8 
University Commission, 246-7 
University of London, 236 
Upanishads, 128, 131, 302, 306 
Urdu language, 3, 145, 252, 281, 294 
Utilitarians, 51, $7-69* 115. 179. 190, 193-4. 
205, 208-9, 212 

Vanity Fair, 317 

vANsnTART, Henry, 21 

VARMA, Ravi, 266 

Vedas, 125, 130-1, 261-2, 273, 302 

Vellore, 150 

VBNTURA, General, 37 
Vernacular Press Act, 1878, 278 
Vicar of Wakefield, The, 271 
Viceroy’s executive council see Governor- 
general’s executive council 
VICTORIA, queen-empress, 175, 236, 272 
Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta, 175 
viDYASAGAR, Iivachandra, 105 
Views of Calcutta, 44 


Village, The, 270 

Villages, 8, 10, 180-1, 220, 235, 238, 267-8 


Vishnu, 55 

VIVEKANANDA, Swami, 260-2, 274-5. 309 
VOLTAIRE, Francois Marie Arouet de, 283, 

WAGNER, Richard, 307 
Wandiwash, battle of, 21 
WASHINGTON, Georgc, 25 
Waste Land, The, 271, 317 

WATBRFIBLD, William, 4 ar -3 
WATSON, Admiral Charles, 20 
WATSON, j. P., 174 
WAVELL, Lord, 161 
WELLESLEY, Arthur, see Wellington 
WELLESLEY, Richard Colley, Marqqess, 26-7, 
33.49-50.97. 100 
WELLINGTON, Duke of, 26 



wiLBBRFORCB, William, 53-4, 95 
WILKINS, Charles. 302-3 
WILLIAMSON, Captain Thomas, 44 
WILSON, Mn., 254 
WILSON, Horace layman, 38, 102 
Women, legislation rebting to, 105-6. 215 
nationalists' attitude to, 257 
WOOD, Sir Charles. 120-1, 177, 179. 212. 236 
WOOD, Mn. Henry, 271 
WORDSWOKTH, William, 50, 303, 305 
WYUIE, Sir Curzon, 288 

YALE, Elihu, 18 
Yalta. 310 

Yedf on the Punjab Frontier, A, 40 
YEATS, W. B., 306 
Young Italy movement, 276 
Yorktown, 25 

Zamindars and zamindan system see Land 
Zamindari Assodadon see Landholden* 
ZOFFANY, John, 43-4 



. W\ 


Calicut V////-'<Z'/4 



Princely stales P 

Batisli India j/^ 




India’s British connection, under the East India 
Company and part of the Empire, had far-reaching 
consequences on the sub-continent’s complex polity. 
The impact was loud and conspicuous on every 
aspect of life. The traditional raltures imbibed the 
new concepts of rule of law, justice , nationalism, 
social reforms and English language with 

This well-documented study underlines the real 
nature of British rule and the enormous amount of 
give-and-take between the two civilisations. 


It covers the wide canvas of attitudes, literature, art 
architecture, language and political philosophies 
shared by them. 

The processes of change began under British rule 
are still on, interestingly, with greater vigour after 
independence. As such the subject is both of 
contemporary and historical interest.